With cold season upon us, and all the warnings against giving over-the-counter cough and cold medicines to young children, here are a few home remedies that can safely help ease your little one's cold symptoms.
Bulb Suction/Nasal Aspirator: For children who cannot blow their noses well, a nasal aspirator or bulb suction can help. These are available at most pharmacies. The American Red Cross makes a nasal aspirator, which has both a plug that can be opened to clean it out after use and a graduated tip to prevent the user from inserting it too far into the child's nose.
To use a bulb suction, push the back end in with your thumb, then insert it into the child's nostril and quickly release your thumb. Be careful not to put the tip up against the sidewalls of the nose because this can traumatize the skin and cause it to swell, making it even more difficult for the child to breath.
Saline sprays and drops: If the mucus is very thick, you may need to use a saline spray or drops to loosen it prior to suctioning. Baby Simply Saline has a graduated tip that makes it easier not to go too far into the nose when dealing with a wiggly baby. If you are using saline drops, make sure they are non-medicated drops. The only ingredient should be saline or sodium chloride.
Steam: Sitting with your infant or child in a steamy bathroom for 10 minutes is a great way to help loosen up the mucus. This can be done prior to suctioning the nose. It is safe to do this multiple times during the day and can be very helpful if done before bed.
Elevating the child's head when sleeping: You can elevate the head of the bed by placing a few rolled up towels under the crib mattress. Do not place anything directly under the child's head since it is not safe to have pillows or loose bedding in an infant's crib. If this is not enough elevation or if your child keeps rolling down the bed, he can sleep sitting up in his car seat. Make sure to strap him in and place the car seat in a safe place.
Humidifier: A cool mist humidifier can help with congestion when placed in the child's room. Do not add any menthol or medicated products to the water. For young children and infants, a regular humidifier simply filled with water is best.
Cough and sore throat:
Honey: In children over 1 year of age, a teaspoon of honey has been found to be as effective as dextromethorphan, the main ingredient in most children's cough medicines. Honey not only helps in suppressing a cough, it also has been found to have anti-microbial properties, which means it can actually help kill bacteria and viruses. Honey cannot be given to children less than one year of age as it can contain spores that can cause botulism in infants.
Cool night air: For a croupy, barking-like, cough, bringing a child into the cool night air often helps. Be sure to bundle the child up well and then take him outside. The cool air helps to decrease the inflammation and swelling in his airways allowing him to breath easier.
Chamomile Tea: A cup of tea can help soothe a sore throat. For children over 1 year old, the tea can be sweetened with honey. For children less than one year, unsweetened, luke-warm chamomile tea can be given in their bottle. For children under a year of age, you can give one ounce of tea per day for every month old that they are. For example a 3 month old can have 3 ounces of tea a day and a 6 month old can have 6 ounces of tea a day.
Soup: For children over 4-6 months of age who are taking solids, warm soup can also help soothe a sore throat.
Mouth sores: Some common childhood illnesses can cause sores in the mouth and throat that hurt and often cause children to refuse to eat. Anything cold can numb the area. Frozen juice pops, which can be made at home from their favorite juice, can be both hydrating and soothing.
Fever: Raising the body's core temperature is one of the ways the body fights an infection. For this reason, a low-grade fever does not need to be treated unless it is causing the child discomfort. Both infant's and children's Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Motrin (ibuprofen) are safe and effective. Both can be used in children 2 months and older. You should contact your pediatrician prior to giving medication to an infant less than 2 months of age or to a child who has not been vaccinated. For more information on fever in a newborn click here.
Time is the ultimate cure for most childhood colds but these home remedies may help to ease their symptoms while they wait it out.