How to treat coughs, colds and flu in children

Your little one’s nose is dripping. They’re coughing and sneezing, have a slightly raised temperature and don’t seem like their usual self. This may feel like a never-ending story in your house. But don’t worry, it’s common for a child to have eight or more colds a year.

Flu tends to be a little more severe and comes on faster than a cold (within a few hours). Flu can leave your child feeling pretty unwell, achy and uncomfortable. They generally have the same symptoms as adults but may also have pain in their ears and appear less active. You can help your child feel more comfortable by:

  • Giving them plenty to drink.
  • If your child has a high temperature or pain, try giving them paracetamol or ibuprofen for kids, such as Nurofen for Children for children over the age of 3 months and weigh more than 5kg.
  • Speaking to your pharmacist for advice or help with their symptoms.
  • Avoid spreading a cold or the flu to the rest of the family, by getting everyone to wash their hands often.

See a doctor if your child:

  • Has a temperature of 39°C or higher and is 3 to 6 months old.
  • Has a temperature over 38°C or more and is under 3 months old.
  • Has a fever with other signs of illness such as a rash, particularly for babies younger than 6 months.
  • Isn’t waking up or interacting with you, or doesn’t want to feed, particularly babies under 8 weeks old.
  • Is finding it difficult to breathe.
  • Is dehydrated.
  • Has a fever lasting more than 5 days.
  • You are worried about your child.

How to treat gastroenteritis in children

Gastroenteritis is a common condition that causes diarrhoea and vomiting in children. It is most often caused by a bacterial or viral tummy bug.  The main symptoms of the illness are watery diarrhoea, feeling sick, vomiting (maybe projectile) and mild fever which comes on suddenly. They may also have a loss of appetite, aching limbs, stomach upset, and a headache. Gastroenteritis in kids usually passes within a week on its own but can sometimes last longer. You can usually look after your child at home until they feel better.

 Tips for looking after your child when they have diarrhoea and/or vomiting:

  • Try to give them regular drinks, water, or ice lollies (for older children). Avoid fruit juice and fizzy drinks as this can make diarrhoea worse. if breastfeeding or bottle feeding, continue doing so, by giving feeds little and often.
  • Don’t dilute your baby’s formula Try to feed them smaller amounts more often if they’re sick. Also, try to give them small sips of water between formula feeding or solid food. 
  • Be very careful about hand hygiene to avoid passing on the infection. Use soap and water frequently to wash hands, and use a clean towel to dry hands very well.
  • Speak to your pharmacist for more advice to help with diarrhoea and vomiting. They may recommend oral rehydration sachets if it is appropriate for your child.
  • Try children's paracetamol if they are in discomfort.
  • Stay at home and get plenty of rest.

See your doctor right away if your little one:

  • Is showing signs of dehydration, or is at an increased risk of dehydration.
  • Is showing signs of a more serious illness.
  • Has been vomiting for more than two days.
  • Has had diarrhoea for longer than a week.
  • Has blood in their poo.
  • Has a weakened immune system.
  • Has been overseas recently.
  • If you are worried about a baby under 12 months old.

How to treat an ear infection in children

If your little one is pulling at their ears, or complaining of ear pain, they may have an ear infection. Ear infections are common in babies and toddlers (particularly after a cold), and most are caused by viruses that cannot be treated with antibiotics. Young babies may simply cry and seem irritable as they can’t always tell where the pain is coming from. They may also have a temperature.

An ear infection is usually not serious and clears up on its own within three days. To help your child feel better, you can use painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen for ear pain. Nurofen for Children contains ibuprofen and can be given to children from 3 months old who weigh more than 5kg. You can also try to put a warm or cold face cloth on their ear to help relieve earache. Don’t put anything inside the ears, such as earbuds, drops or oil unless you’ve been advised by a doctor.

And don’t forget to give them lots of extra cuddles!

See your doctor if your child has:

  • A very high temperature, or is feeling hot and shivery.
  • An earache that doesn’t start to get better after three days.
  • Swelling around the ear.
  • Hearing loss or a change in hearing.
  • Symptoms like being sick, severe sore throat, or dizziness.
  • Regular ear infections.
  • If you are worried about your child.

It's all part of growing up.

Childhood illnesses are a part of growing up.  Fortunately, in most cases, you can look after them at home and they’ll feel better within a few days or a couple of weeks. Although it can be difficult to tell when a baby or toddler is seriously ill, it’s best to trust your instincts. You know better than anyone else when something is seriously wrong.

All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health matters for further information or medical advice, please speak to your GP or a Pharmacist.