When you have a cough or cold, you might reach for over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to ease your symptoms. But you can't do that for babies or toddlers. Cough and cold medicines that are safe for grownups can cause serious side effects -- even life-threatening ones -- in children under age 2.
Try Saline Drops
When your child's nose is stuffy, they may have trouble breathing, sleeping, and eating. Saline nasal drops can thin the mucus in their nose and shrink swollen airways. Use them two or three times per day; any more often could make their nose sore. Nasal saline gel can be used to calm congestion.
Saline drops may make it easier to remove mucus from your child's nose. For babies, try a suction bulb or nasal aspirator. If your toddler can blow their nose with your help, give that a try.
When your child isn't feeling well, give more drinks than usual. Extra fluids can thin out their mucus so their nose won't be as stuffy and they’ll cough up all that gunk more easily.
Most drinks, like water, juice, and milk, are fine. Warm liquids like chicken soup, or apple juice can soothe a sore throat. Be sure they’re warm, not hot, to avoid burns. You can also offer an oral rehydration solution such as Pedialyte, or popsicles.
Give a Little Honey
It soothes sore throats and eases coughs. It may even work better for children than OTC cough medicines. Give your child 1/2 teaspoon of honey before bedtime. But never give it to a child less than a year old. It can make them very ill.
Raise Baby's Head
Have you ever slept with extra pillows when you had a stuffy nose to breathe more easily? This trick works for babies, too. Simply place a pillow or folded towel under the head of your baby's mattress to create a slight angle. This will raise their head safely and help them to breathe.
Use a Humidifier
Moisture in the air makes it easier to breathe, so run a humidifier in your child's bedroom at night. Cool-mist models are safer than those that produce steam. Follow cleaning instructions on the device to prevent mold.
- Babies under 1 month: Call your pediatrician. Fever isn’t normal.
- Babies under 3 months: Call the doctor for advice.
- Babies 3 to 6 months: Give acetaminophen every 4 to 6 hours as needed. Follow dosage guidelines closely, and only use the syringe that came with the medicine, not a household spoon.
- Babies 6 months or older and toddlers: Give acetaminophen every 4 to 6 hours or ibuprofen every 6 to 8 hours. Don't give both drugs at the same time.
Serve Easy-to-swallow Foods
Babies and toddlers with scratchy, sore throats often don't want to eat because it hurts to swallow. Feed them foods that go down more easily.
Toddlers and babies who eat solids may prefer soft, smooth foods. Try ice cream, ice pops, flavored gelatin, pudding, yogurt, or applesauce. If they prefer warmer foods, try chicken broth or freshly made pudding. Babies 6 months and younger should stick with breast milk or baby formula.
These are just a few easy ways to soothe your little one’s cough or cold. Try them instead of over-the-counter medicines. They’ll be feeling better in no time.