The Best Products for Sick Kids

Cold Remedies for Kids: What Works

When a child catches a cold, you can expect them to be sick for one- to two-weeks. But that doesn’t mean you both have to be miserable. These remedies may help:

Water and other fluids.
You can’t flush a cold out of your system, but drinking plenty of liquids can help. Water, juice, clear broth, or warm lemon water helps loosen congestion and prevents dehydration. Avoid alcohol, coffee, and caffeinated sodas, which make dehydration worse. To get kids to drink more water use 12 Fun Loop Straws, fun sippy cups like Mickey Mouse Fun Sip Cup with Ears, and cool water bottles like Wildkin Trains, Planes and Trucks 12-Ounce Steel Water Bottle.

Salt water.
A saltwater gargle — 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt dissolved in an eight-ounce glass of warm water — can temporarily relieve a sore or scratchy throat.

Saline nasal drops and sprays.
Over-the-counter saline nasal drops and sprays such as Little Noses Saline Spray/Dropscombat stuffiness and congestion. In infants, experts recommend instilling several saline drops into one nostril, then gently suctioning that nostril with a bulb syringe (push the bulb in about 1/4 to 1/2 inch, or about six- to 12-millimeters). Saline nasal sprays such as Neil Med Nasa Mist Multi Purpose Saline Spray All in One, 6.0 ounces Unit may be used in older children. Unlike nasal decongestants, saline drops and sprays don’t lead to a rebound effect — a worsening of symptoms when the medication is discontinued — and most are safe and nonirritating, even for children.

Chicken soup.
Generations of parents have spooned chicken soup into their sick children. Chicken soup may be soothing because of its possible anti-inflammatory and mucus-thinning effects.

Over-the-counter cold and cough medications in older children and adults.
Nonprescription decongestants and pain relievers offer some symptom relief, but they won’t prevent a cold or shorten its duration, and most have some side effects. If used for more than a few days, they can actually make symptoms worse.

Experts agree that these medications are dangerous in children younger than age two. The FDA is evaluating the safety of over-the-counter cold and cough medications in older children.

Keep in mind that acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) can cause serious liver damage or liver failure if taken in doses higher than recommended. It’s common for people to take Tylenol in addition to flu medications that also contain acetaminophen, which can lead to acetaminophen overdoses. Read the labels of any cold medication carefully to make sure you’re not overdosing.

If a cough lasts after your other cold symptoms have resolved, see your doctor. In the meantime, try soothing your throat with warm lemon water and honey and humidifying the air in your house. Avoid giving honey to infants.

Cold viruses thrive in dry conditions — another reason why colds are more common in winter. Dry air also dries the mucous membranes, causing a stuffy nose, and scratchy throat. A humidifier can add moisture to your home, but it can also add mold, fungi, and bacteria if not cleaned properly. Change the water in your humidifier daily, and clean the unit according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Click here for our favorite humidifiers and how to use them.

Cold Remedies: What Doesn’t Work

The list of ineffective cold remedies is long. A few of the more common ones that don’t work include:

These destroy bacteria, but they’re no help against cold viruses. Avoid asking your doctor for antibiotics for a cold or using old antibiotics you have on hand. You won’t get well any faster, and inappropriate use of antibiotics contributes to the serious and growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Over-the-counter cold and cough medications in young children.
Over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medications may cause serious and even life-threatening side effects in children. The FDA warns against their use in children younger than age two-years. The Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) has voluntarily modified consumer product labels on over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines to state “do not use” in children under four-years of age, and many companies have stopped manufacturing these products for young children. The FDA is evaluating the safety of these medications in older children.

photo from
tips from Mayo Clinic

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