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Natural Cold Treatments for Kids

How to relieve your child's cold and cold symptoms safely and naturally

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Mother and Father at home with sick daughter
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When your child is suffering from the miserable symptoms of a cold, it can be tempting to reach for an over-the-counter remedy to help make him feel better. But the fact is, studies have shown that cough and cold medicines to be ineffective in children younger than 6. And while the FDA hasn’t yet issued a guideline for school-age kids, cold medication labels now say these medicines are not recommended for children younger than 4. Add to that scary potential side effects such as rapid heartbeat, convulsions, and even death, and natural treatments suddenly seem like a much better option.

How to Help Ease Your Child's Cold Symptoms

Be sure to talk with your doctor about your child’s symptoms to ensure there are no concerns that she is suffering from an illness more serious than the common cold. Then, try the following natural home remedies to help your child feel better:

  • Give him honey for a cough. Studies have shown that honey can treat coughs more effectively than over-the-counter medicines. Mix with a little warm water or put into some non-caffeinated herbal tea -- or even give it to him straight -- and you have an excellent cough remedy for your school-age child. (But be sure to never give honey to a child younger than 1 year old as babies this age face a risk of botulism from eating honey.)
  • Coax him to have some chicken soup. This is one old-fashioned remedy that seems to have some merit. Studies have shown that components of chicken soup may help ease the symptoms of respiratory-tract infections. Even if your child says he isn’t very hungry, try to have him at least sip some broth.
  • Try saline nose drops or sprays. This natural remedy can help open up blocked nasal passages, making it easier for your child to breathe. But be sure to steer clear of sprays containing medications, which could worsen symptoms or cause other side effects.
  • Make it easier for him to rest. Your child will be better able to fight off an infection if his body is well-rested. If he begs you for some time to play a videogame or a DVD, be sure to limit such stimulating activities. Encourage rest by darkening his room, playing some soothing music and even giving him a massage help him fall asleep.
  • Try a cool-mist humidifier. Increasing the humidity in your child’s room can help ease his congestion and help him breathe. Be sure to clean the humidifier to prevent germ build-up.

Other Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Call your doctor right away if he seems to be having trouble breathing. The same goes if his cough doesn’t go away after a week or his fever persists. He should also be seen by your doctor if cold symptoms last for more than 10 days.
  • Be careful about dosing. If you and your doctor decide that your child should have some cold or cough medicine, make sure you use the dispenser that comes with that particular medicine. Using a regular teaspoon or a cup from another medicine bottle can give you an inaccurate dose.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications. Be very careful when giving your child different medications. Some cold and cough medications can combine ingredients -- such as a fever-reducer and expectorant and cough suppressant -- so if you use that and another medicine, you could be putting your child at risk of an overdose.
  • Never give your child a medication that is meant for adults.
  • Remember to wash your hands frequently to avoid getting sick yourself and have other family members do the same.

With plenty or rest, and lots of TLC from you, your child will be back to himself in no time. In my house, I know my son is feeling better when he complains that he’s bored -- that’s when I know he’s ready to go back to school and I can go back to work!

Sources:

"American Academy of Pediatrics Urges Caution in Use of Over-the-Counter Cough and Cold Medicines." Accessed: April 2, 2009.

Paul IM, Beiler J, McMonagle A, Shaffer ML, Duda L, Berlin CM Jr. "Effect of Honey, Dextromethorphan, and No Treatment on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality for Coughing Children and Their Parents." Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine 2007 161(12):1149-53.

Barbara O. Rennard, BA; Ronald F. Ertl, BS; Gail L. Gossman, BS; Richard A. Robbins, MD, FCCP; and Stephen I. Rennard, MD, FCCP "Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis In Vitro." CHEST 2000 118(4):1150-7.

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