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Treating Cough and Cold Symptoms in Your Child

It is hard to watch your child be miserable when they have cold symptoms but cough and cold over the counter products are not for everyone and even some home remedies can be dangerous. Here are some suggestions to try help your child feel better if they are having cold symptoms.


Infants 0-2 Months

1. If your baby has a fever over 100.3 rectally, call your child’s doctor’s office immediately—even if it’s 2 am.

2. If your infant is congested, try 2-3 saline drops in each nostril (one at a time) and then bulb suction loose secretions as needed. Avoid bulb suctioning too often as this can be irritating to little noses. You can buy saline drops over the counter or you can make them at home by mixing 1/2 tsp of salt in 1 cup of warm water. (Make fresh each time.) Be sure to try this before feeds if your baby is seeming congested and having a hard time feeding. Infants with colds may need to feed smaller amounts more frequently.

3. Go hang out with your baby in a steamy bathroom or run a cool mist humidifier. Sometimes humidity can help to loosen secretions.


3 Months to 5 Years

1. If your child has a fever and is acting poorly, you can consider treating with Tylenol/acetaminophen (3 months and up) or ibuprofen (6 months and up) according to the instructions on the label. We do NOT recommend alternating these medications as the research does not support this. Remember that a fever is not dangerous, just our bodies revving up to fight off the infection.

2. Try saline drops and bulb suctioning as discussed in 2 above.

3. Try humidity as discussed in 3 above.

4. Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are NOT recommended for this age group and they are NOT FDA approved.

5. For children 1 year and older, try a teaspoon of honey to help with the cough. (Children under 1 year are at risk for botulism from honey so it is not recommended.) Research has shown that honey is BETTER than over-the-counter cough medicines at reducing cough.

6. For children 2 years and older, try Vick’s (or other brand) VapoRub on the chest or even on the bottom of the feet.

7. Be sure to keep your child well hydrated which helps to keep secretions thin.


6 Years and Up

1. Try all of the above!

2. Cough medicines are safe to try in this age group unless advised otherwise by your child’s doctor. Follow the instructions on the package. Read the ingredients! Many cough and cold products also contain a fever reducer (acetaminophen or ibuprofen). Avoid giving additional fever reducer when using these products.

As always, call your child’s healthcare provider if you think your child needs to be seen. Keep your child away from others as much as possible and consider having a COVID test performed to prevent spread.

Written by: Dr. Lynn Dykstra, Logan Health Children’s Primary Care