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Soothing Your Child’s Cold

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Tips for Giving Children Cold Medicines

With such a range of products on the market, it can be confusing to figure out which product might be best for your child's cold. Here are a few tips:

  • Avoid combination products such as expectorant/antihistamine or cough expectorant/cough suppressant. These may work against each other. Some components, such as antihistamines, may not work at all for a virus -- they can't help unless part of the cold is actually from an allergy.
  • Read labels carefully. Many cold medicines contain a fever and pain reliever such as acetaminophen. You don't need to give a separate dose to relieve aches and fever. If you do, you may be "double dosing." This can be dangerous for your child. If your child has a stuffy or runny nose but no aches, avoid pain relievers such as acetaminophen.
  • Follow dosing recommendations closely, especially with infants. Consult a doctor before giving any over-the-counter medicine to a child under age 4 years of age.
  • Consider generic cold medicines. They're cheaper, but have the same active ingredients as brand name medicines. They may also contain only one ingredient, which makes it easier to target specific symptoms without double dosing.

Before giving your child cold medicine, especially if you have a young child, talk to your health care provider or pharmacist and make sure the medicine is safe for your child.

When to Call the Doctor

More often than not, your child's cold will simply run its course, and you won't need to go to a doctor.

But call your child's doctor if you see any of these symptoms, which can be a sign that your child has developed an infection or more serious illness:

  • Earache or drainage from the ear.
  • Fever above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, or fever lasting more than 72 hours.
  • Cold or cough that lasts more than 10 days.
  • Bluish skin color.
  • Wheezing, fast breathing, or trouble breathing.
  • Inability to drink enough fluids.
  • Extreme irritability, difficulty being aroused from sleep, or seizure.
  • Flu-like symptoms that return with a fever and worsening cough.
  • A nagging, wet cough that doesn't get better with other treatments.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 10, 2015

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