Treating Colds in Children

Call 911 if: 

  • Your child has difficulty breathing.

There's no way to cure your child's cold, which could last up to two weeks, 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 or "barking" cough
  • Your child has ear pain
  • Symptoms don't get better after 10 to 14 days
  • Your child has a persistent fever, decreased activity, or lack of appetite

 

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 Renee A. Alli, MD on September 12, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

FamilyDoctor.org: "Colds and the Flu in Children."

HealthyChildren.org: "Sinus Pain and Congestion;" "Rhinovirus Infections;" and "Coughs and Colds: Medicines or Home Remedies?"

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