Colds and flu: tips on keeping our kiddos safe

I know I promised that I would talk about formula next, however, I’ve recently shared some posts on this very serious issue on facebook so feel compelled to talk about this next.


I came across a couple of posts of parents sharing their unfortunate experiences of their little ones with Down syndrome who have been (and one currently still is) hospitalized due to catching the common cold. This post summarizes why so well (click here to see her page).  Here is an excerpt of that post: “We have all used the phrase “It’s JUST a cold” when talking about our own sniffles. And of course, a cold for any child (or adult for that matter) is unpleasant and uncomfortable. Now imagine you have that same cold on top of naturally smaller airways, larger tonsils, narrow nasal passage, reflux that further irritates your airway, lower muscle tone making it harder to keep your lungs free of fluid build up, existing cardiac conditions that lower oxygen levels are causing stress on, sleep apnea, delays in swallowing coordination, immune development and communication to let your care giver know exactly how you are feeling and how they can help you.”

It breaks my heart to see children so vulnerable and brings tears to my eyes when seeing children suffer from something I had considered very minor in the past. I can’t imagine what these parents must be feeling right now, that their precious child could fall so ill to something that most of us would think nothing of… a common cold.  One little girl named Audrey has been in the PICU since 12/31 and my heart and prayers go out to her and her family.  Click here to see her post.  The pictures in this post break my heart and I am sending lots of prayers Audrey’s way.  Click here to see the blog her mom wrote about her daughter’s plight.   Other moms have shared similar situations where a common cough in an otherwise healthy child turned to croup and a hospital stay for her little one with down syndrome.  I’m sure there are countless other stories.  Feel free to share below so that others can tell your story when educating others about the delicate immune systems of our children with down syndrome (as well as others with compromised immune systems).

I am currently advocating for better hand hygiene and flu prevention at Kaden’s school for Luke’s sake as well as others. Most people (including myself) need to be educated about why it’s so important for us to keep our kiddos with Down syndrome safe from germs as much as possible, especially if your child is prone to infections or has a heart condition.  I want to clarify that I am not recommending staying isolated in your home during the entire cold and flu season. Everyone is going to have their own opinion about what is best for their family.  We don’t let the cold and flu season stop us from living our lives – we’re just watchful about germs.  We just went to a swim party last week in the suburbs of Chicago and we did Luke’s first birthday party at a Pump it Up where he sat and laid down on the floor, so I do not let germs run our life. However, I have had to explain why hand hygiene is so important at my older son’s school and did a bunch of research and tried products due to the fact we have been sick so much this year already. Kaden has had the flu 4 times in less than 2 months and missed 2 weeks of school.  As a family, we have been sick from late October to late December with maybe a week where we were all well.  So what I am sharing is what has worked for us, however, some believe that exposure to germs is healthy and natural so you must have to decide what is best for your family.

So understanding that, please read this knowing that this is what I have found has worked for us or what I have come across through research.  I definitely don’t want to be a fearmonger either. Whatever stories you hear may not happen to your child. But if you need help explaining why you don’t want Aunt Susie to pick up your baby with “just a cold” this may help her understand why you are saying no and why it isn’t just a cold to you.

Here is the advice I have for you should you find it useful.

Cold/flu advocacy and education: Please help educate family, friends, etc. about why it’s important to keep germs from your children. Plus, always keep a trial size of hand sanitizer or wet one wipes on hand at all times if possible. Also, talk to your children about how important it is as well. We found that Kaden wasn’t washing or sanitizing his hands before eating lunch. I emailed his teacher and met with the principal to discuss how to improve hand hygiene at the school, especially for Kaden. Talk to your children about whether they practice good hand hygiene at school. If not, pack wipes or sanitizer for them to use (that wasn’t an option for us). If that also isn’t an option for you, talk to their teachers and administration and share some of the above with why it is near and dear to your heart. Hopefully, they will sympathize and help support you in keeping your children safe from germs. Ask them if they have hand wipes or hand sanitizer in the classroom as well.  If not, donate some for your child’s class to use – it’s definitely worth the investment.  Ask them to teach the children in the class to sanitize their hands after they cough or sneeze, before they eat and after they use the washroom (basic hygiene but kids need reminders sometimes).  This is important since it is hard to keep germs from just your most vulnerable child so everyone in your family should practice cold/flu prevention and good hand hygiene. Kaden was patient 0 in our household catching the flu four times and too many colds to count. And if Kaden got sick, we would all eventually get sick too.

Get the flu shot: this means you and your immediate family for the reason above as well as anyone else that spends a lot of time with your children. The healthier your whole family is, the better off your child with Down syndrome will be. This flu season is especially bad this year since the strain mutated after the vaccine went into production so it’s about one third less effective.  Plus, the one that is not covered is also a strain associated with severe flu outbreaks in the past.  However, that still means two thirds protection for the other strains out there so you should still get your flu shot.  It’s still not too late as we still have months to go in the flu season, and it’s better to have some protection than none at all.

I also believe it’s important to vaccinate our children.  I recently saw the news clip about the measles outbreak (click to view) that is spreading and believe that it is in the best interest of our children to vaccinate in my opinion.  You may not agree, but I do not want to see history repeat itself with measles, smallpox outbreaks for Luke’s, Kaden’s or any of our sakes.  I contracted chicken pox in 1986 and have no doubt that my diabetes is related to that illness (I had it really bad including all the scars and was sick for 2 weeks and started showing symptoms of hyperglycemia soon after).  So this has personal meaning to me.  Please, please vaccinate your children.  We have enough to worry about with raising our children, advocating for their needs, and keeping them healthy.  We don’t want to worry about diseases that were close to eradicated making a come back due to people not vaccinating their children.  I think it can arguably even go as far as falling under “social responsibility” to vaccinate your children, similar to keeping sick ones home instead of allowing them to infect other children with their illnesses.  The links to autism are not founded, so I would urge people to vaccinate your children – for their good and for the good of others.

Keep immune boosters in the house. Kaden is currently on an immune booster Lil Critters Immune C (click here to view – you can find in some drug stores and online retailers) and we have an adult version for us (click to view). although the gummy bear version is very tasty!  It tastes so much like the real thing, I would hide this somewhere to prevent an overdose.  Also, some people will caution you not to use for a prolonged period of time (the adult version cautions against using it for more than 3 weeks straight and to start taking at onset of symptoms), although we give the gummy bears to Kaden every night as I haven’t seen a similar precaution on its label. Regardless what you choose to do, I do believe taking daily vitamins is a good idea. Vitamin C, vitamin D, some antioxidants and a good probiotic can help maintain a good immune system.

If you have a baby and can breastfeed or pump milk, I do believe there are huge benefits here. Luke has only had one bad cold and one mild one with the rest of us being sick from October to December, and I believe it was because he was getting the antibodies in my breastmilk. For this reason, I may keep pumping milk until he is in high school lol!

Everyone in your home should wash their hands at the obvious times: when they get home from school, work or errands, after using the bathroom (of course), before they eat and before they handle a child with a low immune system.  They should wash their hands thoroughly for around 20-30 seconds.  If soap and water is not available, then use a hand sanitizer or hand wipes.  Most brands advertise killing 99% or 99.9% of germs so this be sufficient for most needs, except for some cases of stomach flu viruses.

A special note on stomatch flu: take extra precaution.  Children can be contagious for up to a couple of weeks after their symptoms have gone through vomit and fecal matter.  So if you are the one giving your child a bath, make sure you wash your hands too, even if you think they have been clean in a bath (how I caught the stomach flu from my son – I know TMI but important to share).  And most hand sanitizers do not kill the rotavirus or norovirus (stomach flu).  There are a couple of brands, but not many that are proven.  I bought a small bottle of this for the next time we have the stomach flu go through our home (click to view).  This is not readily available at most stores, and you have to make sure you get the right kind as regular Clorox hand sanitizer won’t work – it must be the Commercial Solutions version (the kind that workers at a restaurant might use for example to help stop the spread of germs in food).

As soon as someone in your family is sick or starts to feel “run down,” give them the immune booster if they haven’t been taking one yet or a homeopathic remedy for cold or flu.  Kaden came down with a cold with a pretty bad cough.  The next day, I gave him Boiron’s ColdCalm that can be given to children ages 3+ (click here to view – you can get at local drug stores and some online retailers as well).   The next day, his cold was much better.  Cold usually stick with him for a week before he gets better, especially with this past season.  So I think the ColdCalm helped.  It’s to be taken at the onset of symptoms with a dose every 15 minutes for 2 hours.It’s to be taken at the onset of symptoms with a dose every 15 minutes for 2 hours.  For Luke, we have tried the Hylands cold tablets (similarly taken with a dose every 15 minutes for 2 hours).  But it didn’t work that well for us.  Other people may have had better luck. We have tried NatraBio Cold & Flu relief with more success (click here to view) and this can be taken as soon as 4+ months, but I personally believe that prevention is the best cure for babies, and for everyone IMO.  We also use a humidifer and germguardian air purifier (we use this one – click to see) in Luke’s and all our bedrooms.  Not sure if using them are proven effective, but I like to have them in our rooms, plus they make a great white noise maker.

My husband also took their flu homeopathic remedy that can be given to children 2+ (click here to view – also can get at some local drug/health stores and online retailers) and never came down with the full blown flu even though Kaden and I had.  I can’t guarantee that this will work for everybody, but if you have a negative or disappointing experience, please post your review on amazon.  I rely hugely on the reviews that people write on amazon, especially the negative ones, just to see if there are any adverse reactions that other people have experienced.  Not all the reviews are helpful, but then you will have some data to base your decision on what is best for your family.

If you find that those remedies don’t work or that you are seriously concerned about your child’s health, definitely call your doctor.  I’m a believer that you should consult your doctor whenever you have a question or concern about your child’s health, which is why your relationship with your pediatrician is so important.  If you or your child has a compromised immune system (I have been a type 1 diabetic since 1986 so I myself have a low immune system), then talk to your doctor about getting a flu anti-viral, like Tamiflu.  I haven’t asked my doctor about his yet so I can’t speak to its effectiveness or side effects, so it’s important to do your research in order to decide if it’s the best thing for you or your loved one.  If I come across anything more about Tamiflu, I will update my post.

I will also update my post if I come across other information or tips that are helpful to share.  Please share your tips on keeping healthy during the cold/flu season in the comments below or feel free to contact me directly. Like I said, this is meant to be informational and you must make the best choices for your family.

Stay warm and healthy!

Have you washed your hands?   I don’t think so…



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