Cold Remedies for Kids:
What Helps & What to Avoid

There’s no cure for the common cold. But what about cold remedies that claim to make your child feel better faster. Cold remedies are ubundantly available over the counter for the common cold, but are they effective? As we know, nothing can cure a cold, but there are some remedies that might help ease the symptoms and keep your child from feeling so miserable. Here’s a look at some common cold remedies and what’s known about them.

Cold remedies that work: 

If your child catches a cold, you can expect him/her to be sick for one to two weeks. That doesn’t mean they have to be miserable. Besides getting enough rest, these remedies might help your child feel better:

1 | Keep him/her hydrated

Enough clear water or warm lemon water with honey helps loosen congestion and prevents dehydration. Avoid caffeinated sodas and sweetened juice which can make dehydration worse. A cold remedy used in many cultures, taking in warm liquids, such as chicken soup, tea or warm apple juice, might be soothing and might ease congestion, rehydrate and increase mucus flow.

2| Try over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medications

For adults and children older than age 5, OTC decongestants, antihistamines and pain relievers might offer some symptom relief. However, they won’t prevent a cold or shorten its duration, and most have some side effects.

Experts agree that these shouldn’t be given to younger children. Overuse and misuse of these medications can cause serious damage. Talk with your child’s doctor before giving any medications.

Take medications only as directed. Some cold remedies contain multiple ingredients, such as a decongestant plus a pain reliever, so read the labels of cold medications you take to make sure you’re not taking too much of any medication.

3 | Soothe a sore throat

For the older child, a saltwater gargle — 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt dissolved in an small glass of warm water — can temporarily relieve a sore or scratchy throat. Children younger than 6 years are unlikely to be able to gargle properly. You can then try ice chips, sore throat sprays and lollies or lozenges. Use with caution when giving lozenges to children because they can choke on them. Avoid giving lozenges to children younger than 6 years.

4 | Combat stuffiness

Over-the-counter saline nasal drops and sprays can help relieve stuffiness and congestion. In infants, experts recommend putting several saline drops into one nostril, then gently suctioning that nostril with a bulb syringe/nose Frieda. Saline nasal sprays may be used in older children.

5 | Relieve pain

For children 6 months or younger, give only paracetamol (e.g., Panado/Capol or Empaped). For children older than 6 months, give either Paracetamol or ibuprofen. Ask your child’s doctor for the correct dose for your child’s age and weight. 

Never use aspirin for pain or fever in children. Children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms can develop Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening liver failure, in such children.

5 | Rest

Your child will need enough rest and sleep for his/her little body to heal.

Cold remedies that don’t work: 

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

1 | Antibiotics

These attack 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. Your child won’t get well any faster, and inappropriate use of antibiotics contributes to the serious and growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

2| Some Over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medications in young children

Some OTC cold and cough medications may cause serious and even life-threatening side effects in children. Talk with your child’s doctor before giving any OTC medications.

Some final thoughts: Although usually minor, colds can make you and your family feel miserable. It’s tempting to try the latest remedy, but the best thing you can do is take care of yourself. Rest, drink fluids and stay away from public places and the cold weather outside. Remember to wash your hands frequently.