If your house is filled with the sad sounds of coughing and congestion, you’re not alone. Cold and flu season has made its official debut, and parents all over the country are feeling its effects. As a parent of two young boys, I feel your pain! But as a pediatrician who sees many sick children in her office each winter, I can offer you some advice on how to get your kids through it.
- Over-the-counter medications: First and foremost, if your child is under the age of 6 years, the cough and cold medicines you find in the aisles of your local drugstore are off-limits. The ingredients in some of these medicines can cause a variety of unexpected and dangerous reactions in young children. Furthermore, if you’ve tried them yourself, you’ve probably seen firsthand that they don’t work that well. So for me, it’s not worth the risk. If your child is over the age of 6 years, pay careful attention to the recommended dosage on the box. Lastly and very importantly, make sure you are not using multiple products with acetaminophen or ibuprofen listed as an ingredient – giving too much of either of these medicines can be very dangerous! When in doubt, call your pediatrician for recommendations tailored to your child’s age and needs.
- Humidifier: Running a humidifier at night can be a good way to help lessen your child’s congestion. Keeping their room cool and moist may help break up some of that thicker mucus, as well as keep their nasal passages from drying out. Many have found that humidifiers don’t work for them, but it is one tool that I’d recommend keeping handy.
- Nasal saline drops: For babies, using a simple nasal saline solution that you can buy at your local pharmacy can relieve some of the stuffiness. A couple drops in the stuffed nostril, followed by sucking the now-softened mucus out using a bulb suction device (similar to the one you probably got in the hospital with your newborn) can work wonders. But if you can’t see the boogers that you’re going after, don’t work too hard at it, since too much suction can really dry out the nose.
- Honey: Recent research suggests that a small amount of honey (no more than a teaspoon) helps relieve a cough better than cough and cold medicines. I’d say that’s worth a try! However, honey can be very dangerous for infants less than 1 year of age, so this isn’t an option for them.
- Hydration: Always make sure your child is getting lots of fluids and remains well-hydrated during any sickness, as the body often needs more liquids than normal to heal.
- TLC: A little extra love and affection can go a long way!
While the above tips may help alleviate some of the symptoms of a cold, there is no substitute for calling your child’s doctor if you are worried. Good luck!