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First Aid & Emergencies

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Treating Colds in Children

Call 911 if: 

  • Your child has difficulty breathing.

  • Your child has difficulty breathing.

There's no way to cure your child's cold, but you can help relieve the symptoms that make your baby or toddler uncomfortable.

Call Doctor If:

  • Your child has a cold and is 3 months or younger.
  • Your child has a severe cough.
  • Your child has ear pain.
  • Symptoms don't get better after 10 to 14 days.

1. Clear Out Mucus

  • Use an infant nasal bulb, or aspirator, to suck mucus from your baby's nose.
  • If your child is able, have her blow her nose regularly.

2. Add Moisture

  • Use a saline spray to moisten the nasal passages.
  • Use a cool-mist humidifier if the air is dry.
  • Sit in the bathroom with the hot shower running and have your child breathe in the steam.

3. Give Fluids

  • If your child is over 3 months, offer apple juice or water. Hydration helps to loosen mucus.
  • Older children can have warm soups and other drinks.

4. Treat Fever and Pain

  • You don't need to treat a fever unless it is making your child uncomfortable.
  • If your child is older than 6 months, you can give children's-formula acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for fever. Don't give aspirin to children younger than 16 years old.
  • Follow the dosing instructions on the medication. Use a formula that's made for children, not adults.
  • Never use a cold or cough medicine in kids under age 6 unless the doctor suggests it.

5. Treat Other Symptoms

  • If your child is over age 1, try 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of honey for cough.
  • Raising the head of your child's bed may help relieve congestion.
  • Rub petroleum jelly under the nose to prevent chapping.
  • Avoid irritants, such as cigarette smoke.
  • Be patient. Colds usually last one to two weeks and clear on their own.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on September 11, 2015

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