Relief for children's flu or cold symptoms

Tips for children

Self-treatment recommendations to alleviate the typical symptoms of a COVID-19 infection, a cold or a flu.

What you can do in general:

  • Fresh air: Air your rooms regularly. The best method is to air regularly, thoroughly and briefly, without exposing yourself to draughts.
  • Increase the humidity in rooms (hang damp washing up in the room / on radiators)
  • Make sure that your child can rest and that it gets enough sleep.
  • It's important for the child to drink plenty of fluids, e.g. water, herbal teas, ginger tea or diluted fruit juices. You can sweeten the drinks with honey once or twice a day if the child likes it (from the age of one)
  • From about 4 years of age: Sucking mild sweets or chewing gum increases the production of saliva and relieves sore throat symptoms; a dry throat makes the pain even worse and makes swallowing more difficult.
  • Do not expose your child to polluted air (nicotine/barbecue smoke/cleaning product fumes etc.)
  • Diseases of the respiratory system are usually transmitted by droplets, but you should make sure that you and your child practice good hand hygiene.

Treating individual symptoms

  • Inhalations with warm steam (max. 45°C!) should only be used for older children from approx. 4 - 5 years of age. Inhalations liquefy and dissolve secretions and reduce swelling of the nasal mucous membranes. Provided the child does not have allergies, herbs such as peppermint and thyme or essential oils such as eucalyptus or peppermint oil can be added to the steam. The child can inhale for 5 to 10 minutes in the morning and before going to bed. All inhalations should be supervised by an adult because of the risk of scalding.
  • Nasal sprays or drops containing the active ingredients xylometazoline or oxymetazoline can reduce swelling of the mucous membranes and relieve the feeling of having a blocked nose. However, they should be used no more than two to three times a day and for a maximum of five to seven days. You should try to use products which do not contain preservatives. Products which are appropriate for the child's age can be obtained without a prescription from your pharmacy or drugstore.
  • Saline solutions (e.g. Naaprep), seawater or isotonic saline solutions in the form of sprays or rinses are preferable to medical nasal drops, especially for infants. When applied with a little pressure, they flush away the mucus and help the child to breathe more freely and therefore drink more easily.

Small children up to about 4 years of age who are not drinking enough because they have swallowing difficulties or a sore throat can be given paracetamol. After about an hour the pain will have abated and drinking should be much easier.

  • Older children from about 4 years of age can use lozenges that are appropriate to their age. Chewing gum also helps with saliva production, which has a lubricating effect and relieves soreness of the throat. You can also obtain sprays that have a local anaesthetic effect. A spray that is appropriate for your child's age is available over the counter from pharmacies without a prescription.
  • Prepare cool and plain (not spicy) food and drinks for the child
You should always be extremely careful when administering cough medicine to children because coughing clears the airways. However, if the cough remains dry or if thick mucus is produced and the child is distressed, an expectorant should be administered during the daytime. Expectorants liquefy the mucus, so that it is easier to dislodge and cough up. Do not give the child expectorants after 4 p.m. because it is liable to be disturbed by coughing at night.

Cough suppressants suppress the urge to cough. They are advisable if the child and its family are unable to sleep at night or if night-time coughing fits are causing the child to vomit. As a rule, cough suppressants should only be administered at night. You can obtain an age-appropriate product for your child from pharmacies and drugstores without a prescription.

Do not administer expectorants and cough suppressants at the same time or closely together.

As a matter of principle, an elevated body temperature means that the body's defences have been activated and does not necessarily have to be reduced. Reasons for reducing fever in children:

  • The child is clearly suffering and feels very unwell
  • The child complains of a headache and aches and pains. These are common symptoms of flu-like infections with fever.
  • The child is not drinking enough. The younger the child, the more important it is to recognise this symptom at an early stage.
  • The child is not getting any restful sleep. Fever-reducing medications will help the child to sleep. Paracetamol, which is available without prescription in pharmacies and drugstores, is recommended as a fever reducer. It is important to give the correct dosage, which depends on the child's weight. It is important that you administer the dosage recommended in the package leaflet (not less). If the correct dosage is administered, you can expect to see the child's temperature fall by 0.5 to 1°C after about an hour.

Under which circumstances should you call a doctor/paediatrician?

  • Children under the age of 3 months with symptoms such as fever, changes in general health, unusual skin colour, feeding problems, coughing, vomiting (not "possetting" i.e. the regurgitation of small quantities of milk and saliva) etc. should be examined by a paediatrician immediately.
  • The parents of children with underlying health conditions should follow the instructions of their doctor or paediatrician and consult him promptly where necessary.
  • If the child feels very ill or is exhausted or if fever-reducing medication is having no effect despite the correct dosage being administered or if the fever lasts for more than 2-3 days.
  • If the child has coughing fits until it vomits
  • After pseudo croup attacks (in the event of complete recovery after an attack you can wait until the next working day to see a doctor).
  • In the case of a predisposition to asthma-like bronchitis which makes medicinal inhalations necessary.
  • In the event of an all-night chesty cough which makes sleep impossible.
  • If there is pain (e.g. in the mouth, ear, throat, joints or when passing water) or if other symptoms (e.g. coughing or swallowing difficulties) are very severe or become rapidly worse.
  • If there are also rashes or if skin changes occur.
  • If the child's nappies are no longer full and wet as usual or if the child's urine is a very dark yellow.
  • In the event of a very severe headache with neck pain or lapses in consciousness.
  • If the symptoms/fever return after initial improvement.
  • If the child has shortness of breath or symptoms indicating restricted airflow, call 144. One indication of restricted airflow is so-called "paradoxical breathing" in which the diaphragm moves upwards during inhalation and downwards during exhalation. Abnormal nostril movements when breathing in and out also indicate restricted airflow. Another indication of restricted airflow is if breathing is generally laboured and seems very fast and the lips are bluish.
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