Can I Give Emergen-C to My Child? How to Help a Child Through a Cold or Flu

Many parents reach for Vitamin C supplements like Emergen-C at the first sign of a cold in their children. While the idea of beating back a cold with high levels of Vitamin C is enticing, it is a myth for children. Emergen-C is fine for adults, but when you see cold symptoms coming on for a child, you shouldn’t give your child under 15 an adult Emergen-C or a similar supplement.

Why You Shouldn’t Give Emergen-C to Your Child

There is no evidence to support that high levels of Vitamin C or “immune-boosting” products such as Emergen -C  help a child avoid the common cold.  These supplements may provide up to 5X the recommended intake of Vitamin C for children.

It has been shown that consistent adequate intake of Vitamin C consumed prior to the start of a cold ( from foods or a daily multivitamin ) may reduce the length of a cold in children by 14%.

Starting to include Vitamin C intake after symptoms arise does nothing to decrease the severity or duration of a cold.

What Can I Do to Prevent My Child From Getting Sick?

A balanced intake of nutrients is important to overall health and adequate intake of Vitamin C does support immune function. Instead of focusing on supplements like Emergen-C for your child, seek to provide enough Vitamin C through a balanced diet.  Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit have high levels, as well as bell peppers, strawberries, kiwi, and broccoli.

How to Treat a Child That is Already Sick?

We know seeing your child sick is tough. You’re ready to do anything to make them feel better and your first instinct might be to take their temperature. A fever over 100 degrees can mean they have the flu or another illness, but generally, anything below that likely means it’s just a cold.

Here are 7 ways to help your child:

1. Give your child plenty of fluids and make sure they get enough rest. Rest gives the body time to process and recover. Ensuring your child drinks plenty of fluids is also important.

2. Applying a cool compress to the chest, back, or neck may feel good if the child has a temperature. It should not be so cold or applied so long that the child shivers. This can help reduce body temperature in the case of a fever or reduce overall muscle and body aches.

3. Drinking warm liquids can feel good on a sore throat, and some provide additional benefits! Chicken soup has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties which can help fight a cold.

4. Offer children age-appropriate pain medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) if they are over six months old.

5. Make sure that you stay away from any cold virus yourself to avoid passing it on to your kids. Take precautions this cold and flu season like washing your hands, avoiding close contact with others, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

6. Be sure to protect your children from viruses in public places, especially when their immune system is weak. According to the Boston Children’s Hospital, we should prepare for a rise in cold and flu cases in children in the post-pandemic, hybrid school world. If your child is feeling sick, keep them home to allow for maximum rest and recovery time with limited exposure to additional germs. If your child needs to venture out, practice clean health habits like hand washing and distancing.

7. Keep a humidifier handy. Dry air, especially in Colorado, can further irritate breathing passages making an uncomfortable situation worse. Keeping the air moist will make breathing more comfortable and, hopefully, lessen coughing.

The Pediatric Urgent Care of Northern Colorado

If you are a Colorado native, contact the Pediatric Urgent Care of Northern Colorado team of experts if you have questions about how to care for your little one or think they may need to see a professional.