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Home Remedies for Children's Colds and Flu

WebMD Feature

Winter may mean snow, sleds, and outdoor fun for children -- but it can also mean colds, sore throats, fever, and flu.

When winter ills strike, soothe symptoms with these simple home treatments.

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Common Cold Comforts: Tips to Help Your Child Feel Better

There are over 200 cold viruses ready to lay your family low with nasal congestion, sore throat, and cough. Combat cold symptoms with these home remedies.

  • Get rest. Rest helps the body focus its energy on getting well, so keep kids home from school, warm, and well-rested.
  • Drink lots of fluids. Replenish liquids lost through sneezing and coughing. Fluids also help loosen mucus.
  • Use a humidifier. A humidifier in your child's room can keep the air moist and reduce nasal and chest congestion.
  • Talk to your pediatrician before giving OTC cold and cough medicines. These medicines should not be given to children under 4, according to the FDA and the drug makers. Also, evidence indicates medicines such as antihistamines, decongestants, and cough medicines don't really help, and they pose a small risk of serious side effects.

Cold Symptoms: When to Call a Doctor

Most colds pass in seven to 10 days, but give your child's pediatrician a call if your child has:

  • Excessive trouble breathing
  • An earache
  • A fever of 102° F or higher
  • A persistent cough
  • Vomiting, by itself or after coughing
  • Swelling of the sinuses or tonsils

Flu Symptoms: Tips to Help Your Child Feel Better

Unlike colds, the flu can come on suddenly and may include fever. Help kids cope with these quick tips.

  • Keep kids home and well-rested. As with colds, bed-rest is vital to helping the body's immune system fight the flu.
  • Gargle with warm salt water. Salt watercan help relieve sore throat pain, while salt water nose drops can help loosen mucus and moisten skin.
  • Stay hydrated. Fluids help the body tackle infection. Make sure your child drinks water, tea, or 100% juice, and eats clear soups to get the liquids he or she needs.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications. Pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help relieve aches. Never give aspirin to children under 18 because it can cause potentially fatal Reye's syndrome.


Flu Symptoms: When to Call a Doctor

Call your child's pediatrician if flu symptoms include:

  • A fever over 103° F
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Yellow or green phlegm
  • Vomiting
  • Listlessness or decreased urination
  • Or if symptoms linger for more than 10 days


Sore Throat: Tip to Help Your Child Feel Better

A sore throat can be caused by flu, strep throat, mononucleosis, allergies, tonsillitis, and more, so be sure your child sees the doctor to get the correct diagnosis. To help ease common sore throats:  

  • Gargle with salt water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of water.
  • Use pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Never give aspirin to children under 18 because it can cause potentially fatal Reye's syndrome.
  • Drink fluids to help keep the throat lubricated. Give your child plenty of water, tea, 100% juices, and clear soups. Lozenges and hard candies can also help keep the throat moist (because of choking hazards, don't give lozenges and candies to children under 3).

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