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  • Baby, It's Cold Outside

  • (and inside, too, when your little one has the sniffles)

    Every parent knows the tell-tale signs of the first winter cold. For young children, six episodes a year are common and often spread to every member of the family. Despite their discomfort, sneezing, a runny nose and a slight fever of 101F or less are no cause for alarm.

    Call the doctor if:

    • fever increases
    • sore throats worsen
    • earaches worsen
    • breathing becomes rapid or difficult

    Experts advise parents to keep a 24-hour record of symptoms and describe them accurately to their physician. Unless the child's cold has advanced into something more serious, however, don't expect your pediatrician to dispense antibiotics this season "just in case."

    Antibiotics may not be the answer

    New guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics encourage physicians to prescribe antibiotics with more caution. They recommend prescribing antibiotics only when a bacterial infection is strongly suspected.

    An estimated 50 million prescriptions for unnecessary antibiotics are written each year. Patients want a quick fix and doctors want to do something to make people feel better. The trouble is: antibiotics not only don't have any effect on a viral cold, they can be dangerous. These drugs wipe out all sensitive bacteria, leaving behind superstrains that are resistant to drugs.

    Parents with sick children won't be left out in the cold however. Advice for comfort care and effective over-the-counter medications can help parent and child weather a cold-and there's always chicken soup.

    A few tried-but-true recommendations