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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.

Congestion continued...

Place a few of the salt water drops in each nostril to thin mucus, wait at least 60 seconds, then use a blue bulb syringe to gently remove discharge. For infants, try this before feeding.

Saline drops or spray also can relieve stuffy noses in older children. Have children wait 60 seconds after using the spray before gently blowing their noses.

Resting with the head elevated might make children feel more comfortable by improving drainage. If you want to raise a baby’s head slightly, try placing a rolled-up towel underneath the crib mattress. Do not place any soft bedding or pillows on the mattress itself because of the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, Dodge cautions. For older children, place a folded towel between a mattress and box springs to elevate the head and chest. Choose a slight angle so a child doesn’t slide down the mattress.

A cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer in a child’s room can add moisture to the air, helping ease breathing through dry, congested nasal passages. Some pediatricians and children’s hospitals, as well as the AAP, recommend them. After each use, empty water from the machine. Make sure to follow manufacturer’s instructions on keeping machines clean and disinfected. Do not use hot water in a vaporizer because of the risk of burns. If you don't, then machine can spread mold and mildew through the child's room making the condition worse. And remember, humidifiers should be used short term only.


When to Call 911

  • If an infant is making grunting noises while trying to breathe.
  • If a child stops breathing for more than 10 seconds.
  • If a toddler can’t complete a sentence because he is struggling to breathe.
  • If there is a blue or dark purple color to the nail bed, lips, gums, or mucous membranes.


When to Call a Doctor

  • A child is so weak and tired he doesn’t respond well.
  • A child doesn’t play for at least a few minutes in a four-hour period while he is awake.
  • If a child complains of a tight feeling in his chest, or that his chest hurts.
  • If, after seeing a doctor, a child starts wheezing or having more difficulty breathing.
  • If an infant can’t be calmed by methods that usually work, like singing, rocking, or giving a pacifier.
  • A child tugs at her ear or shows sign of ear pain.
  • Fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher in a child 3 months or younger.
  • Fever for more than three days in an older baby or child.
  • If the child appears dehydrated. For babies younger than 12 months, that means a dry diaper after six to eight hours. For older children, that means no urination for more than eight hours. No tears when crying, sunken eyes, and dry lips are also indicators of dehydration.
  • A child has bloody mucus or saliva.
Reviewed on August 03, 2011

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