Your little one is coughing, sneezing, wheezing, congested and has a sore throat. It’s cold time again! As a parent, you want to soothe your child and make them comfortable until they feel better. It can be a feeling of being helpless as your little one fights the germs.
Recent recalls of over-the-counter pain relievers and cold remedies are enough to concern any parent. The recommendations and recalls put parents in between a rock and a hard place sometimes.
The Food and Drug Administration has issued numerous warnings since 2008 about cold medications in children under age 6. While the FDA says use of ibuprofen or acetaminophen is fine, it’s wise for parents to steer clear of all other over-the-counter cures. With all the recent recalls, it is also wise to consult the Consumer Product Safety Commissions’ website prior to using any pain reliever to make sure the one they choose isn’t on the recall list.
While a visit to the pediatrician may be in order, there are often times where there is little even the child’s doctor can do other than let the bug run it’s course. It is always advised to take your child to the doctor when they run a high fever.
If your child is tugging at the ear or complaining, this is a sure sign of an ear infection and in this case a trip to the doctor should also be in order.
But, what can a parent do to ease the symptoms of cold and flu without resorting to over-the-counter cures? Here are some suggestions that may provide relief to your child as they recuperate:
- A bath or shower to loosen congestion: Steam therapy is good for loosening congestion. You can put your child in a warm bath or shower, or take your smaller ones in the bath or shower with you.
- Use other steam therapy: You can also use a warm steam vaporizer or cold steam humidifier to help ease the congestion. Humidity is great for putting moisture into the air, helping your child rest and breathe easier.
- Use Vapor Rubs: Most brands you find in stores and the like are safe for children over age 2. You can find special blends that are suitable for little ones under 2 years old as well. Vapor rubs are best used on the chest, throat and back and you should avoid the nose area where the vapors will be too strong. A rub down serves like a massage, relaxing your child. As the vapor rub works, the menthol, camphor and eucalyptus found in most blends will ease the symptoms allowing your child to rest more comfortably.
- Use a bulb syringe/nasal aspirator: While this often isn’t fun for parents to do, it does ease the stuffiness for babies or small ones that haven’t yet mastered the act of blowing their own nose. Use the syringe with care and don’t put it too far in the nasal passages. Remember, your child is sensitive and probably dealing with narrowed airways so use care.
- Use saline sprays to help: Just a few drops of saline spray can loosen congestion and provide relief, especially in the littler ones.
- Keep your child well hydrated: Many children lose their appetite when they are fighting a cold. This is normal. But be sure your child does not become dehydrated. For babies, make sure that they are drinking regularly, taking in fluids like breast milk or formula at regular intervals when their airways are clearer. For those children who drink themselves, if they are not drinking enough on their own try popsicles or Pedialyte.
- Elevate the head: This provides relief and helps drain congestion. Give your child an extra pillow or roll up a towel. With babies, you do not want to place anything under their heads, but you can elevate their crib or bassinet by placing books or other objects under the legs which will elevate the head area a bit. This is safer for baby.
- Feed them chicken soup: This is more than just an old wives’ tale. It works on three fronts: It keeps your child hydrated, gives them some nutrition and has proven benefits to speed up recovery from a cold.
- Brew up a warm beverage: You can brew up some tea with honey and/or lemon if your child will drink it. Warm broth also works wonders. Be creative and give your child what they like. You can also heat up things like juice to a warm temperature (similar to that of a baby bottle) and it will still help soothe the discomfort and keep them hydrated.
- Use honey: Honey has many great properties to soothe colds, however don’t give to children under 1 year old. For children over 1, just ½ a teaspoon of honey can be a great soother. It lines and soothes a sore throat well and has even been proven to have antibacterial properties that can help your child fight off the bug.
- Relieve ear infection pain with heat: Use a warm towel or heating pad. This works for older children but not recommended for babies for safety reasons.
- If you smoke, stop smoking around your child immediately: There is much evidence that second-hand smoke is bad, but it’s brutal on children who are fighting mucus because exposure to smoke actually thickens it. If you must smoke, go outside and do it far away from your child always, but especially when they are sick.
The ideas shared here are used by many mothers, this Examiner included, and should help relieve the symptoms of cold for your child. As always, nothing replaces the medical advice your pediatrician can offer you, so be sure to call the child’s doctor when they get sick to see if an office visit is necessary.