For primary care physicians, office visits for coughing kids are common. In addition to the cost of such visits, Americans spend some $3.5 billion a year on over the counter (OTC) cough and cold remedies and often give them to young children.
The best you can do is to make your child comfortable until the flu and cold tide is over.
- Saline nasal drops or sprays can help loosen secretions from a cold and lubricate the nasal and sinus passages. These drops can be instilled twice a day.
- Elevating the head of the bed can make the baby breathe easier by preventing the pooling of cough in the nose. Place a firm pillow under the mattress (and not in your baby's crib).
- Sticky, stubborn mucus: Use a wet cotton swab to gently clear the sticky mucus around the nose.
- For children older than one year with viral flu, we recommend 1.5 teaspoons of honey in some warm water prior to bedtime as a cough remedy. Honey soothes the throat and helps the child sleep better.
- Drinking plenty of fluids for hydration: Regardless of age, when suffering from a cold and cough, keep well hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. This helps clear excess mucus in the sinuses.
- Chicken soups and warm vegetable broths help in soothing the throat and relieving congestion in the chest. Warm milk with a pinch of turmeric works as well.
- Hard candy or lozenges are available over the counter for kids more than 6 years of age. These contain numbing substances to soothe a scratchy throat.
- A cool, mist humidifier helps keep the air in the house humid and relieves the symptoms because dry air worsens the cough and cold.
Can you give over the counter cough and cold syrups to your child?
The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) recommends that children under the age of 2 years should never be given OTC cough or cold medications. Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued strict warnings about the use of OTC cough and cold preparations in children younger than 6 years.
The OTC syrups of many companies contain combinations of medications. Read the labels carefully to ensure that they contain only the ingredients that are considered safe for infants and children. For children younger than 3 months old, do not give acetaminophen until your baby’s doctor has prescribed it.
Tylenol/Panadol (acetaminophen) or Motrin/Advil (ibuprofen) may be used for fever and pain in older children. Do not give Aspirin to infants younger than 16 years because of a complication called Reye syndrome.
Many cold medicines already have acetaminophen in them. If you give one of these medicines along with extra acetaminophen, your child will get a double dose and get the unwanted side effects; some of which can be serious.
How to prevent your child from getting a cold?
Here are a few everyday tips that you can follow to keep your child away from cold:
- Wash your hands often. The infection-causing germs are most commonly spread through the frequent touching of surfaces, such as door handles, toys, and your own hands because the germs linger on these surfaces.
- Avoid others who are sick. The mucous droplets expelled by the sick through sneezing or coughing can infect the healthy ones in proximity. Teach children not to share drinkware or utensils with others.
- Keep affected surfaces clean. To help keep germs off nightstands and coffee tables, among other places, tell your children to throw used tissues in the toilet or in a trash can. Use bleach-based wipes to disinfect shared items, appliances, and other surfaces.
When to call a doctor?
For all children, call a doctor if you see any of the following signs and symptoms:
- A fever in an infant of 2 months of age or younger
- A fever of 104° F or higher at any age
- Signs of cyanosis, such as blue lips
- Nostrils widening with each breath
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Not eating or drinking with signs of dehydration (such as decreased urination)
- Excessive crankiness or sleepiness
- Persistent ear pain
- Cough lasting for more than a week
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Academy of Pediatrics. Caring for Your Child’s Cold or Flu. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/medication-safety/Pages/How-to-Manage-Colds-and-Flu.aspx
Ashkin E, Mounsey A. PURLs: A Spoonful of Honey Helps a Coughing Child Sleep. J Fam Pract. 2013;62(3):145-147. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3601686/