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Tips to treat a cold, avoid sinus infections

February 7, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
How you use a tissue when you blow your nose can improve your cold or make it worse.

Most people who have a cold will close up one nostril and then blow hard, but doctors say that's the worst thing you can do.

"If you blow really hard, in the action of blowing really hard, you have to do one of two things. You actually have to close one nostril, but you sniff first. And as you sniff in, you get mucus, usually thick mucus, that gets trapped within these sinuses," said Dr. Lorraine Smith, an ear, nose and throat specialist.

And that's how a sinus infection gets started.

Smith says the best way to avoid a continuous infection is to keep both nostrils open and blow gently.

That's something you can teach the kids. But for children younger than 2, treating a cold can be quite frustrating.

"As you know, we've pulled off most of the medications off the counter because they were just being inappropriately used," said Smith.

So with little over-the-counter treatment available to treat a cough or cold, Smith suggests you go directly to the cause. Post-nasal drip causes cough and irritation. She recommends flushing out the nose with saline rinse to free up the cilia, or fine hair, in the nasal passages.

"And by keeping them moist then basically they wash the mucus and the viruses and the bacteria and all of the environmental pollens out of your nose," said Smith.

And she says menthol ointments like Vicks VapoRub helps open up the airways in kids older than 2.

And since the goal is to flush out your system, make sure kids get plenty of fluids, lots of rest and a dose of patience for parents.

In kids under 2, studies show mentholated products might actually increase mucus production, so always check with your doctor.

Also, always wait 24 hours after your child's fever has subsided before returning them to school.