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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

How to Soothe Your Child’s Cold

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There isn't a cure, but there's still a lot you can do to make your child feel better when he's in the grips of a sneezy, drippy, and all-round miserable cold.

First Steps for Relief

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. Make sure he rests and gets plenty to drink.

When your child drinks extra fluids, it thins his mucus, which helps it to drain. Drinking can also ease his sore throat. Try a variety of fluids, such as warm water or tea with lemon and honey, ice pops, or chicken soup.

Also try a humidifier in his room. Moist, warm air improves breathing and can ease a dry, sore throat.

If your kid still isn't comfortable, especially at night, should you try children's cold medicine? It depends how old he is. Don't give them to your child if he's under age 4.

Many over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicines have more than one ingredient, including some that your child may not need. And some may include a pain reliever, too. If you don't read labels carefully, you may give your child too much medicine.

Always ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about cold medicine for your child. Read the packaging label carefully before giving your child OTC medicine.


You've got several choices. Nose drops such as Afrin are approved by the FDA for children age 6 and older. Neo-Synephrine is OK'd by the FDA kids 12 and older.

They can improve your child's stuffy nose. But don't use them for more than 2 to 3 days. If you do, it can make your child more congested.

Decongestants that your child takes by mouth include drugs such as pseudoephedrine. He may have side effects such as being hyper or trouble falling asleep, so don't give them at bedtime. Unfortunately, these medications rarely work for more than an hour or two.

Saltwater nose drops and sprays, which you can buy at a drugstore or supermarket, are just as effective as decongestants. They don't have any side effects, and you can give them to young children.

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