Wed, 22 Nov 2000

What to know about your child's cold

Dear Dr. Donya,

I'd like to know if it's "normal" for a child of seven to come down with a flu/cold every month. Thank you very much.


-- Inge Njotokusumo



Dear Inge,

It is uncommon for seven years olds to have colds every month. Age is a factor in the resistance to colds. Children between four months and two years catch colds more frequently, which also tend to last longer and with more complications. On the average, this age group contracts colds seven times a year. After the age of two or three, the frequency and severity of colds decreases. So your child, at age seven, could possibly come down with a cold three or four times a year. Again there are factors that effect the child's vulnerability to colds.

1. Psychological condition: Stress can lower the body's immunity to infection. When children or adults are tense or unhappy, they are more susceptible to colds.

2. Environment: The number of children he plays with, especially indoors can increase the risk of infection. Children are also more vulnerable in shopping malls, which are air-conditioned and crowded and where infections can easily spread, especially viral infections.

3. Hygiene: Avoid sneezing, coughing or breathing directly onto the child's face. Hygiene is important; wash your hands with soap before placing food in the child's mouth.

If your son is exposed to the above factors, avoid them and see if your son has fewer colds. If your son has mostly sneezing, a runny nose, nasal congestion (block) or an itchy nose, you should take him to a pediatric immunologist (a specialist in children's allergies). My recommendation is to give your son nutritious food, exercise, fresh air and plenty of sleep. Doing these can improve your son's immunity.

-- Dr. Donya

Dear Dr. Donya,

How are you? Thank you for your reply.

I have a question for you. My daughter is now six weeks old. She sleeps well in the evening, however, she sleeps too early, at around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. She will sleep up to 11 p.m. or 12 p.m. and then wake up.

After this time, she will not sleep soundly and wakes up frequently. The problem is that I have difficulty in sleeping that early. I am trying because I know I must rest but I am used to sleeping late. Is there any way I could make her sleep later, gradually, at 7 p.m., 8 p.m. or even 9 p.m., so that she won't wake up so early and will sleep more at night. This will also enable me to have more rest and sleep as well.

Should I play with her and keep her awake as long as possible? What if she gets cranky? Thank you Dr. Donya, I will be waiting for your reply.

-- Pauline


Dear Pauline,

It sounds like your daughter is sleeping well. But she wakes up frequently after midnight. Pauline, your baby will drink more after midnight due to hormonal influences, nighttime breast- feeding is effective at increasing milk production and the milk is more nourishing too. I won't recommend that you keep your baby up to tire her in the hope that she will sleep better at night, this usually has the opposite effect.

Try to let your baby fall asleep by herself without the need of a nipple. If she nods off after her bedtime feed, wake her up slightly before laying her down. At six weeks of age it is fine to wait a few minutes to see if your baby can go back to sleep before feeding or changing her. If your daughter doesn't need a feed but she talks, do not talk to her. Keep everything quiet and let her drop off to sleep. If she can get back to sleep by herself and doesn't need you to change or feed her, you may want to put her in her own bed, that will help you sleep well too.

Do you have enough milk? For the breast-fed baby, wetting the diapers at least six times a day and weekly weight gain are indicators that the child is getting enough to nutrition (your daughter's weight when she was one month old was fine).

The family bed is not a bad idea because it is easier for you if you are close to your baby when she needs you. Children can sleep in a separate room from the time they are born. If they have been sleeping in their parent's room, it is a good time to move them when they are two or three months old because at this age they begin sleeping through the night and don't need as much care.

-- Dr. Donya