8 Foolproof Ways to Soothe a Sick Child

No mom wants her child to feel miserable -- and the common cold can really wipe a kid out! Fortunately, combining a few simple moves with time-tested remedies can help ease your little one’s symptoms. So the next time she starts coughing and sneezing, try these savvy tricks to soothe your sick kid in no time.

1. Push an ice pop. “This frozen treat can help soothe a sore throat, plus provide extra fluid to prevent dehydration,” says Dr. Susan Besser, a family physician in Memphis, Tenn., and a mother of six. Giving your child plenty of liquids will also help thin out mucus, making it easier to cough it up.

2. Choose the right remedy. An over-the-counter medication is one of the best ways to relieve cough and cold; just make sure to check the label for age restrictions. A multi-symptom drug is useful in many cases, but don’t assume that it’s a one-size-fits-all treatment. “If your child isn’t experiencing each of the ailments listed on the box, you’re giving her unnecessary meds,” says Besser. “That may cause uncomfortable side effects, like insomnia or nausea.” She advises matching up your child’s specific symptoms with the medicine you give her.

3. Use an extra pillow. “Elevating a child’s head will keep those nasal secretions flowing forward and out of the nose,” says Dr. Peter I. Liber, a pediatrician in Wheaton, Ill., and a father of four. That can prevent postnasal drip from turning into a cough -- and help her sleep more soundly.

4. Have a cooldown. While waiting for that acetaminophen or ibuprofen to kick in, a cold washcloth or icy drink can provide relief for a feverish child. Skip the cool bath, though: Liber explains that may raise his core temperature -- and actually worsen fever.

5. Soothe with steam. “Adding moisture to the air can help loosen up congestion,” says Besser. Keep a vaporizer or humidifier in your child’s room, and remember to change the water daily to prevent bacteria growth. Or run a hot shower and let her sit in the fogged-up bathroom for up to 15 minutes.

6. Teach good hankie habits. “Clamping your nose with a tissue and blowing forcefully can lead to nosebleeds or even a ruptured eardrum,” cautions Besser. Instruct your child to clear her nose gently. While you’re at it, remind her to toss the tissue in the trash afterwards and wash her hands to avoid spreading germs.

7. Calm with creams. Turns out those mentholated topical ointments and creams your own mom gave you really do work. According to a recent study, sick kids whose parents applied a vapor rub to their chest 30 minutes before bedtime slept better, breathed easier and coughed less throughout the night than those who didn’t. Just make sure to follow the directions on the package, and avoid using in and around the nose.

8. Protect his nose. You can’t always help whether your little guy uses a tissue or his sleeve to wipe his nose -- but when he does, make sure he’s got a soft facial tissue on hand. And Liber also suggests keeping his skin from getting red and chapped by applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly beneath his nose and on the outside of his nostrils.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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9 Ways Dads Can Benefit Kids’ Health

It’s no surprise that positive parenting affects a child’s health and happiness. Countless studies have shown powerful benefits of dad’s participation in children’s development: Kids of highly involved fathers score better on cognitive tests at six months, are better problem-solvers as toddlers and have higher IQ’s by age 3. In school, they get more A’s and perform better on standardized tests. There’s an emotional benefit too: These children report feeling less anxious and depressed, and they’re more social and empathetic.

But did you know that kids with involved dads are physically healthier too? Studies have shown that kids who live with active, involved fathers are:

  • Less likely to suffer a physical accident
  • Six times less likely to visit the emergency room
  • Up to two times less likely to suffer from asthma
  • More likely to be active -- and four times less likely to be obese by the age of 18 -- than kids with inactive, obese dads

And there are benefits for dad too: Fathers who engage with their kids are more likely to feel more satisfied and empathetic with others, as well as less stressed.

Young kids require lots of attention and love, especially when they’re sick. So every day, both mom and dad should make 10 minutes of one-on-one time with their kids a priority. Here are a few smart ways dads can get involved in kids’ lives:

1.    Be the chauffeur. There’s no easier time for undivided catch-up time with your kids than when you’re driving home from school or swim practice. It can become important bonding time during which kids open up about what’s going on in their lives. Just make sure to ban cell phones to create an opportunity for meaningful conversation.

2.    Get your hands dirty. Do a little yard work together! Your kids will love mucking around in the mud, and you’ll get a helping hand digging up the flowerbeds, raking leaves or scavenging sticks for the fireplace.

3.    Build something. Whether it’s a living room fort or a kitchen science experiment, start a project together. While having fun, you’ll also create precious memories together: According to Harvard University, the more senses you use, the more involved your brain will be in making a memory (which means your kids are likely to remember the experience).

4.    Experiment in the kitchen. You don’t have to be a master chef to cook with your kids. For your next weekend brunch or dinner, mix up boxed pancake batter with blueberries, or concoct an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sandwich together. (Making a mess is the fun part, anyway!)

5.    Read to them. Reading is essential to your child’s mental development: As early as the 1960s, studies showed that kids with fathers who regularly read to them were more likely to score better in many important cognitive skill categories -- especially vocab -- than children whose fathers did not. So start at an early age, and do it often.

6.    Tell stories together. Boost your kid’s creative juices by telling a story and letting your kid fill in the parts. Play off of each other and, above all, have fun! Research shows that when toddlers chat with their dads, they tend to be more inquisitive and even use a larger vocabulary than when they’re talking with moms.

7.    Make a coloring book. If your kid’s stuck in bed or if it’s a dreary day, make it a bit brighter by sketching the outline of a person or place and asking your kids to fill in the details. If you have a younger kid, draw a full image and give her the crayons to fill your mutual masterpiece.

8.    Share your passion. Whether it’s walking your kid through a golf swing or simply explaining why the sky is blue, make sure to discuss the things you love with your kids. They might occasionally roll their eyes (“Dad’s at it again!”), but they won’t forget those impromptu lessons.

9.    Hug them. Kids need physical attention -- and not just from mom. Snuggle, show affection, love them -- especially when your little one is stuck sick in bed (and all her friends are outside playing).

Moms: Encourage dads to get involved. Studies show that when moms are supportive of their spouse’s parenting, men are more likely to be involved and feel more responsible for their kids’ well-being.

Photo by Derek Thomson on Unsplash

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Moms: Stop Fears Before They Start

It’s part of a mom’s job to watch over her children’s health and wellness. And when kids don’t feel well, we nurture them back to health as best we can.

But have you ever heard your child cough once and wondered if it’s something serious? Sometimes a small concern can quickly escalate into feelings of real fear. If this sounds familiar, there are steps you can take to avoid making yourself sick with worry -- for your sake and your child’s.

“Children are very sensitive to mom’s mood,” says Betsy Cetnarowski, a certified child life specialist at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio. “So when mom is anxious, it can make kids anxious as well.”

Check out these strategies for managing fears that come with being the No. 1 caretaker for your child’s health.

1. Talk to your pediatrician. It’s important to arm yourself with information. Instead of putting energy into worrying about what could be going on, call your pediatrician about your child’s symptoms.

“They will either allay your fears or say, ‘That does sound serious. Come in,’” says Los Angeles marriage and family therapist Tiffany Howsam. “It’s OK to ask questions, including where to get more information.”

Just beware of consulting Dr. Google, warns Howsam. If you’re already feeling anxious and you start looking up symptoms, you’re bound to find something to confirm your fears, even if it’s an extremely rare case. “Speak to your doctor instead,” she urges.

2. Stay in the present. Unless you have a crystal ball, you can’t see the future -- and you shouldn’t even try. “When you start thinking about what might happen,” warns Howsam, “you can go into a downward spiral. If your child has a low fever, that doesn’t mean it’s the first sign of an untreatable disease.” Find out the facts from a professional before making any conclusions.

3. Do a reality check. Distinguish the difference between fearful feelings and measurable facts. “Ask yourself, ‘Is this true?’” advises Howsam. “Learn to catch yourself and identify when you’re catastrophizing.”

4. Take a breather. “Find a quiet place to sit for five minutes, relax and focus on your breath as it goes in and out,” says Howsam. If your mind wanders, just bring it back to the breath. Stick with it. You’ll find that you can redirect your thoughts and calm yourself.

5. Make a list. If you notice your nerves getting out of control, you may be dwelling on one negative detail and disqualifying the positive signs of health or recovery. Write down five positive things about your child’s health (e.g., he has a good appetite, his fever is going down, he’s energetic or he’s sleeping better). If you feel yourself heading down that road of negativity, just look at your list for some reassurance,” says Howsam.

6. Be prepared. If your child does need to be tested or treated, find out exactly what’s going to happen, gathering all the details of necessary procedures. “After all,” says Cetnarowski, “the unknown is often scarier than the reality.”

7. Focus on the familiar. One way to comfort yourself is to concentrate on making your child feel more comfortable. “If you are going to a doctor’s office, bring books or toys from home,” says Cetnarowski. “Doing something familiar while you’re waiting will not only help your child, but also help you feel safer.”

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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De-stress Your Next Pediatrician Visit

Going to the doctor’s office can be a stressful occasion for the whole family. As a pediatrician, I want to make sure that the kids I take care of are happy and healthy – and that their parents have a chance to address any concerns. And this all has to happen within 20 minutes, so I don’t keep my other patients waiting! To maximize our time together and help the visit go off without a hitch, there are a few smart moves moms can make. Here’s what I recommend to de-stress your next doctor’s visit:

Bring your child’s paperwork. Keep your child’s medical files in an easy-to-find location. If you’re a first-time patient, provide the doctor’s office with your medical history and files. That way, we won’t have to track down things like allergies and vaccination histories during the appointment. Also, remember to bring in any forms or waivers that your child needs to be filled out for school, sports and activities.

Think about what you want to address. When I’m wrapping up a visit, parents will often mention an important issue that requires more careful examination. To make sure that you don’t forget anything -- and that I have enough time to examine any problems -- jot down a little list of all the conditions and concerns that you want to discuss. You may also want to call or email me before coming in. For instance, if you’re worried because your child can’t concentrate in school, I sometimes have his or her teachers fill out a questionnaire before the visit.

Keep track of symptoms. Take note of when your child developed her problem and how often it occurs, such as when she started getting headaches and how long they last. Knowing the complete picture can help me make a diagnosis.

Prep your child. Before the appointment, let your kids know why they’re seeing the doctor. One exception: If you know that getting a shot makes your child anxious and worried, skip telling her. She may spend the entire visit in tears.

Don’t promise “no shots!” or “no medicine!” Instead, just say that you’re not sure. Your child shouldn’t feel like you’ve betrayed her. Also, don’t use needles as a bartering chip. I’ve had some parents tell their kids, “If you’re bad, Dr. Zets will give you shot.” Not only does this portray me as the bad guy, it also encourages a fear of doctors!

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

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Streamline Your Life: 9 Smart Time-saving Tips

Ask any busy mom what’s on her wish list, and “More time” inevitably comes up. Turns out those extra hours may be right under our noses: Too many of us waste our precious minutes rounding up the kids, scrambling to pull together dinner and sorting through our email inboxes.

As a professional organizer, it’s my job to show my clients how to streamline their routines. Try incorporating a few of my suggestions and you may actually find yourself with a little “me” time at the end of the day!

1. Start your day with mommy-and-me time. Have a designated day of the week for each of your kids, and wake him or her up 15 minutes early. That way, you both know you’ll have some special bonding time, no matter how hectic things get.

2. Take stock of your kitchen. Each month, take a quick inventory of your pantry and do one big grocery shop to stock up on essentials. Even if you can’t get to the market one week, at least you’ll have the basics to whip together a few quick meals. (Consider using a website like Coupons.com, which keeps your list online.)

3. Invest in a slow cooker. It’s a mom’s secret weapon: Toss a few ingredients into the pot in the morning, and your family can sit down to a home-cooked dinner with minimal prep in the evening.

4. Divide and conquer. Delegating chores to every member of the family will save you time and stress. To keep everyone accountable, create a chore chart that everyone can check off, and put it up on the fridge. Kids can tackle age-appropriate tasks, like helping to put away the dishes, feeding the dog, picking up toys and hanging up coats. I also like to give incentives: I schedule a special “date” with my daughters if the chore chart is completed at the end of the month.

5. Take control of the calendar. I recommend keeping a reusable wipe-off monthly calendar in a central place so everyone knows exactly what’s going on and there won’t be any miscommunications.

6. Have laundry day. Designate a specific day of the week to do laundry so the load won’t sit in the dryer and become wrinkled. (Yes, this has even happened to me!) When you get it all done in one day, you won’t have to dread coming home to a huge pile of clothes. Make the chore more fun by scheduling phone dates with family and friends.

7. Place trash cans strategically. Children are notorious for leaving trash in the car (snack wrappers, water bottles), so keeping a trash can by the driver’s side door can save you from having to clean out the car every week.

8. Have a place for everything. Getting out of the door in the morning is no easy feat when you’re hunting for schoolbooks and book bags. Designate an exact place for your kids’ school supplies, jackets and lunch bags so they won’t go missing when you’re leaving for school.

9. Prioritize your inbox. We all get way too much email. Consider sorting your messages into simple categories like “To do today,” “Follow up by week two,” and “Unsubscribe from this email chain.” Send email replies to only those who need them, and avoid hitting “Reply all” -- unless it’s necessary.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

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