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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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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.


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.


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.

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.

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