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Home Remedies for Kids' Winter Ills

Antibiotics don't work on colds and the flu, and many doctors have stopped prescribing them if your child has the sniffles. Try these doctor-recommended home remedies instead.

Home Remedies Abound for Ear Infections

Although many parents are accustomed to the trip to the doctor for the "pink medicine" (amoxicillin), many doctors are getting away from that for ear infections these days. "No high fever, no antibiotics," Walls says. (So at least don't insist if your doctor has changed tactics.)

If the pink stuff is needed, it's being given in more intensive doses. Times are changing.

Both doctors recommend over-the-counter remedies such as Auralgan (an ear drop that reduces the inflammation and pain of ear infections) or various oils such as almond, olive, garlic, and other herbs. "I have had kids brought in that smelled like a Greek salad," laughs Walls.

Kemper notes that oils can help equalize pressure on the eardrum and ease discomfort.

Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are also good for pain. "We treat the pain now and let the child's body resolve the inflammation," she says. "Even if we can look in and see pus, we leave it alone."

Earaches also hurt more when the child is lying down. Prop the youngster up, recommends Kemper.

Home Remedies for Sore Throat

The major concern with sore throat is to be sure it's not strep. Kemper says. "If it's summer, it's probably not," she says.

Strep builds slowly, Walls says. "The child usually does not wake up with it."

Walls lets his older patients gargle with benadryl. "If they swallow, they may get sleepy," he warns.

Kemper recommends gargling with salt and baking soda (half a teaspoon of each in a cup of warm water). Herbal teas, such as slippery elm, cherry bark, or licorice (not anise) are also soothing. If the child prefers cold on the throat, try Popsicles or ice cream. Kids over the age of 4 can suck on a cough drop or horehound drop.

Zinc lozenges are sort of out now, Walls says. Zinc tends to make females nauseated, Kemper observes. Kids can get diarrhea from it, too.

Both doctors recommend flu shots for anyone over 6 months. Walls is a little more cautious, however. "What if kids take those all along, go off to college and don't get one -- they could be clobbered." Like all of this advice, discuss it with your doctor if you are doubtful.

The surgeon general, along with the National Council on Patient Information and Education, also has set up a web site to help you choose over-the-counter medications more responsibly. Follow labels carefully, keep bottles up high and away from kids, and inform your doctor of anything you do decide to give your child -- Popsicles excepted, of course.

About 30% to 70% of his little patients receive complementary therapies, Walls estimates. Sometimes a story or glass of juice with a "bendy" straw does the trick.

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