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Cold and Cough Home Remedies for Children: What Works?

Is honey OK for a cough? Should children with a cold avoid thick fluids like milk? WebMD asked the experts.

Fever

For a baby younger than 3 months, check with a doctor.

For babies ages 3 to 6 months, talk to your child’s doctor about using infant acetaminophen and ask for the correct dosage. Make sure to use the measuring cup or spoon included with the medicine. Household measuring spoons may not measure accurately, resulting in an overdose.

For children 7 months and older, try acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check with the doctor for the right dosage. Read bottles and packages carefully to make sure you’re giving the right dose. Infant drops and children’s liquid fever reducers come in different strengths. Make sure you’re giving the right kind and the correct amount.

Aspirin should not be used because of the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome, a serious illness that can damage the brain and liver.

If an infant younger than 3 months has a temperature, taken rectally, that is higher than 100.4 degrees, check with your doctor or go to an emergency room immediately. In young infants, this could be a sign of a serious infection. Also, consult a doctor if a child older than 3 months has a temperature higher than 104 when taken rectally.

If for some reason you are unable to take a rectal temperature, you may use a special thermometer to take a temperature in your baby's arm pit. This is called an axillary temperature. You pharmacist, doctor or doctor's nurse can explain how to do this. Keep in mind an axillary temperature will be 1 to 1.5 degrees lower than a temperature taken rectally because it's taken outside the body.

Coughing

Give a half-teaspoon of honey to children ages 2 to 5; 1 teaspoon to children ages 6 to 11; and 2 teaspoons to those 12 and older, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. Do not give honey to babies younger than 1 because of the risk of infant botulism.

Smoke can irritate already inflamed airways. Don’t smoke in a home with children, advice that extends beyond cold season. While children have colds, keep them away from smoke from other sources, too, such as grills and wood-burning fires.

If the coughing is so severe that it keeps a child from sleeping, or if the cough lasts beyond 10 days, discuss it with a doctor.

Scratchy Throat

Soft foods such as puddings, Popsicles, chicken soup, gelatin desserts, and ice cream can feel good to a scratchy throat, Allers says. If a child doesn’t feel like eating a usual diet, try some of these foods.

Congestion

Saline nasal drops can help relieve congestion, especially in an infant’s small nasal passages. Because babies breathe through their noses and not their mouths, breaking up nasal congestion can make it easier to breathe, allowing a baby to nurse or drink from a bottle more comfortably.

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