How to Treat a Child’s Cold: Best Practices for Parents


Father and Young Daughter Holding Hands

There are few things more frustrating as a parent than having a sick child who’s uncomfortable, irritable, and inconsolable. Unfortunately, there is no definitive cure for the common cold, but there are some very effective ways to treat it and relieve the symptoms in children.

Here is some advice for parents about how to treat colds in infants, toddlers, and older children in safe and effective ways.

Cold Treatment for Infants

For infants under the age of two, it is important to avoid decongestants and antihistamines because these pose potential risks and side effects to very young children. However, it may help to use saline drops to remove mucous from a baby’s nose, or try a suction bulb. It’s also important to increase fluids for infants when they have colds. For babies six months old or younger, stick to breast milk or formula instead of water or juice. Also consider adding a folded towel under the baby’s mattress at his or her head to create an elevated angle for easier breathing.

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Cold Treatment for Toddlers

For children between the ages of two and four, parents should consult a pediatrician to determine whether over-the-counter medications are safe to use for specific symptoms that are occuring, such as fever. Toddlers should be taught how to blow their own noses and how to wash their hands after touching their noses and mouths. Toddlers can drink water, juice, milk, and warm soup to increase bodily fluids while experiencing a cold. It has also been recommended to give children who are at least over one year old a half teaspoon of locally sourced honey to soothe sore throats and coughs.

Cold Treatment for Older Children

School-age children under 12 should still receive children-specific medication to treat colds rather than modified doses of adult-strength medication. However, there are more over-the-counter treatments available and recommended by doctors for children over the age of four. This is good news for parents who are looking for a cost-effective solution to getting their kids feeing better and performing well again in school and activities. Most children who are older than four can also try cough drops or lozenges to relieve sore throats and cough symptoms.

Extra Comfort Measures

In addition to medication, there are other things that parents can do to make their children feel more comfortable and relaxed when they’re sick with a cold. For example, parents can put a few drops of salt water in a child’s nostrils to relieve congestion, or run a cool-mist humidifier to boost the amount of moisture in the air.

It may also help to apply some petroleum jelly under a child’s nose if it has been rubbed raw from blowing it frequently. A hot bath or shower may also help to relieve stuffiness and soothe body aches. Good old fashioned chicken noodle soup is a traditional favorite among families with sick kids as well.

And of course, it’s essential that children with colds get more rest than usual and limit daily activities until their immune systems can rebound. With safe and age-appropriate OTC medications and compassionate home care, colds don’t stand a chance with today’s healthy and active kids.

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