5 Things I Do (and Don’t) When My Kids are Fighting a Cold

support child's immune system while fighting a cold

As not fun as it is to have a sick kid, I gotta admit, I do love the couch snuggles… One of us was sick last week (can you tell which one?) with a fever, runny nose and a cough. Thankfully the really “sick” part only lasted about 24 hours, which I credit a lot to the things here.

She woke up in the middle of the night Thursday burning up with a fever. She didn’t realize it yet, but I could tell her little body was fighting a cold (at least I hoped that was all it was).

I’ve written before about how I’ve kicked a cold fast in 24-36 hours when I’ve been sick myself. So I thought I’d add a few more notes about what I do when one (or both) of the kids, or really anyone in our house, gets sick.

First, a word on prevention.

I almost don’t even want to say it. I’m knocking on all the wood right now.

My kids rarely get sick.

Almost to the point I get nervous sometimes that their immune systems just aren’t responding. Because, also when you have an autoimmune disease you are on high alert for any sort of sign that your kid does too.

We’ve somehow managed to dodge the hand, foot, mouth and flu outbreaks that I every now and then get email alerts about from their school.

When they were really little I remember there was just one time when three out of four ears were infected. And that’s the only time I can recall that they were even sick at the same time (wood! knock.).

Now, that’s a phonemon I have no explanation for. And part why I’m bewildered by their immune systems.

I get told we’re lucky.

I think it’s more than luck though.

I give all the credit to all the things we do every day (ok, most days) that supports their immune system.

Things like…

  • Having fruits and vegetables first.
  • Trying to eat the rainbow every day.
  • Mostly drinking water and some juice.
  • Limiting “snacks”, sugar and packaged foods (see first bullet: fruits and veg first).
  • Majority of the time eating an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense diet that’s mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and high quality animal protein. (Just like in Dinner in 10.)
  • Supporting gut/microbiome health with prebiotic (asparagus, onions, garlic, cooked and cooled potatoes and grains) and probiotic (unsweetened yogurt, real sauerkraut, miso) foods.
  • Prioritizing sleep.

There’s no guarantee doing any or all of this will prevent a kid, or anyone, from getting sick. I think it can greatly reduce the chances though because you’re doing all the things that give the immune system what it needs to do it’s job: to protect you.

foods for fighting a cold

In the end, supporting the immune system is what’s within our control.

Some kids get sick more often and other don’t. I certainly don’t know all the reasons why, but whatever we’re doing has been working so far so I plan to stick with it. And that’s why I’m sharing it here.

Now let’s talk what to do when a virus or infection gets past the immune system we’ve tried our darnedest to fortify. What do we do then….

5 Things I Do (and Don’t) When My Kids are Fighting a Cold

Hold the Motrin/Tylenol.

With a fever I try to hold out as much as I can on giving anything like Motrin or Tylenol that will reduce the fever. The reason why is fever in and of itself isn’t harmful, it’s the infection that is. The fever is a good thing. It’s how the body fights the infection. Motrin or Tylenol will reduce the fever and that gets in the way of the immune system doing it’s thing to get rid of the real problem: the invader. It’s like throwing a wet blanket on top of a fire, when you set the fire to burn up debris.

I keep dye-free Children’s Motrin on hand and we use it only when things get really miserable, like if they’re not drinking or eating food, not sleeping, and clearly, well, miserable.

This is the same advice our pediatrician has given us. Treat the child, not the fever. Even the time I called their office when one’s temperature had gone up to 104. The nurse told me not to worry and that it’s not so much the height of the temperature (unless over 105) but the duration that becomes concerning (longer than 2-3 days).

Note: You should talk to your pediatrician and know what they recommend. Remember, I am not a pediatrician, nurse or any sort of doctor. Just a mom who asks a lot of questions and does a lot of research.

fighting a cold

Give all the fluids.

The heat from a fever can dehydrate the body quickly. As much as I can I try to get them to drink as much water as possible. We’ve tried it all: counting sips, contests, prizes when you finish, etc. Whatever it takes to get liquids in.

If it’s not going down so easily, I’ll add a few splashes or up to half the cup of apple or orange juice and I find they usually drink more of it that way. Coconut water is another good fluid to add when sick because it’s high in electrolytes – minerals that need to be replenished when sick.

And a lot of fruit.

Eating fruit helps get more water and electrolytes into the body too. Fruit has a cooling effect on the body which can help take the edge off the fever. High water content fruits like watermelon, cantaloupes, honeydew will be especially hydrating and cooling. Bananas, oranges, apples, berries… basically any and all, you can’t go wrong. They’ll provide needed vitamins and minerals to support the healing process.

Amp up the nutrients.

I try to sneak in greens for an added nutrient boost. Dark leafy greens, like kale and spinach, are like nature’s multivitamin/multimineral. The way that I have the best luck with this is in a smoothie. This tropical smoothie with mango and pineapple is one of our favorites.

And popsicles always work, too.

Another favorite superfood to add that packs a serious nutrient-dense punch is Spirulina. Spirulina is a blue-green algae that’s high in a lot of vitamins and minerals and is one of the few plants that’s also a complete source of protein, meaning it has all 9 essential amino acids.

It has a stronger taste than adding, say, spinach, so I recommend starting small, maybe 1/4 tsp or less at first and then pushing it up a little more as tolerated.

If you have a multivitamin you usually or sometimes take that you already have on hand, you can give that as well for some additional nutritional support. We go back and forth on using vitamins, I usually buy them when the girls are going through “a phase” not drinking their smoothies and turning their noses up at green things, which is where we are right now.

Avoid sugar and “snacks”.

I put snacks in quotes here because my kids only consider foods that come from the pantry to be true “snacks.” As far as they are concerned fruit, veggies, anything that doesn’t come in a package does not count.

I know what a hard one this one is. The reason I say it is because sugar and packaged foods (for the most part) deliver absolutely no nutrition and can even deplete the body of the nutrients it needs for the immune system.

On top of that, these foods can cause inflammation, especially the cookies, cakes, cereals, etc. made with pro-inflammatory ingredients like sugar, gluten and dairy. These foods/ingredients can reduce the immune system’s response in their own ways (ie. increased mucus production).

Think of it this way. Every time your child (or whoever is sick) eats something is an opportunity to get vital nutrients into them that are going to help them get well. You don’t want to waste those bites on foods that are going to do the opposite.

I know the struggle to get kids to eat anything you actually want them to be eating is REAL. So, especially when sick, I go for the whole-food things I know they already like and will eat, which tends to be a lot of fruit. I’m good with that – it’s better than Goldfish. 😉

Your Turn – What Are Your Go-To’s When Fighting a Cold?

I am not the expert here, these are just the things that came to mind after this last 24-hour cold we had last week.

Like I said in the beginning, (thankfully) I have limited experience caring for sick babes (knocking on all the wood over here, again!). I know you moms out there have more tricks up your sleeves…. please share them with us in the comments!

Thank you!

P.S. As I said in the post, I firmly believe how we eat the majority (about 80%) of the time helps make these colds a rare thing for us. And the thing that makes eating this way possible is I’ve figured out a way to make dinner in 10 minutes every night (seriously.). I created Dinner in 10, my whole-foods cooking class and meal prep training course, to show you how you can do it too. Check it out here.


Note: Some of the links contained in this post are affiliate links through which I have the opportunity to receive a small commission of sales. All commissions are used to help fund this blog. Thank you for your support! 

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nurse or medical practitioner of any kind. The information and advice included in this article are based on our family’s personal experience and the research that I have done on my own. It is not offered as medical advice and should not replace professional medical care by a licensed medical care provider. 

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