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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.
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Home Remedies for Sore Throat continued...

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.

Star Lawrence is a medical writer based in the Phoenix area.

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Reviewed on November 10, 2003

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