When your baby's feeling bad, your first instinct is to comfort -- with her favorite teddy bear, a warm blanket, and lots of love. Luckily, with a few simple remedies up your sleeve, you can take care of your baby’s cold and flu symptoms right from home.
One note of caution -- don't give cough and cold medicine to kids under 4. If your child is between 4 and 6, talk to your doctor about whether you should give medicine to relieve symptoms.
When You Need to Treat a Fever
You don't need to treat every fever. "If your child is drinking and doesn't seem too uncomfortable, it's fine to leave the fever be," says Claire McCarthy, MD, a pediatrician in the Primary Care Center at Boston Children's Hospital. "But if she's uncomfortable, not drinking, or otherwise acting ill, bringing down the fever may help her feel better."
Check with your doctor about whether you should use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat a fever. The doctor can recommend an appropriate dose, especially if your child is under 2. Do not use ibuprofen in infants under 6 months.
Make Sleep Easier
Your sick baby needs plenty of rest -- and so do you. But a stuffy head, runny nose, or cough can keep everyone awake.
- Use a humidifier. A humidifier or cool-mist vaporizer in your baby's bedroom adds needed moisture to the air. This helps keep nasal passages moist, and reduces nighttime coughing and stuffiness. Be sure to clean it regularly so mold doesn't grow inside it.
- Raise baby's head. Lying flat makes a cough worse, which is bad news for bedtime. Raising the head of your baby's crib a few inches can help. Try placing books under the legs, or rolling up a towel and placing it under the head of the mattress. "This keeps the mucus draining in the right direction and helps ease coughing," says Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Like adults, babies need plenty of fluids when they're sick. Fluids help thin mucus, making it easier to clear. For babies under 6 months, breast milk and formula are the best options. Older babies can also have water, juice, or small amounts of rehydration solutions.
For a cough, try offering small amounts of warm, clear fluids to help thin out mucus for older babies. Try 1 to 3 teaspoons of warm apple juice or water four times a day while the cough lasts.
If your baby's older than 12 months, you can also use honey. Honey thins mucus and can help with coughing. Offer 1/2 teaspoon to a teaspoon throughout the day as needed. You can use it before bed, too. Studies show honey works better than cough syrup to ease coughing at night.
For coughing spasms, try the mist from a warm shower. Sit with your baby in a steamy bathroom.
Give Lots of Love
When your baby's sick, there's no greater comfort than holding him close. Whether in a baby carrier or in your arms, your baby will love the attention -- and it will probably make you both feel better.