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Toddler Cold Remedies - Natural Home Relief for Coughs and Colds

Updated on November 16, 2016
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John uses his research background in Biochemistry & Physiology to develop review articles - pregnancy, babies, infants, children, teenagers

The non-prescription over-the-counter drug remedies for cold and flu symptoms include decongestants for stuffy noses, antihistamines for runny noses, various so-called cough suppressants, and a variety of expectorants to relieve congestion by loosening mucus.

However, there has been growing concerns about the safety of cough and cold medicines for children and their lack of effectiveness.

Many have been withdrawn or made available only for older children, not for infants.

This has led many parents to search for alternative remedies to relieve the symptoms of coughs and cold in children, that parents know are safe and effective.

Flu Virus
Flu Virus | Source

Statistics show that children will get an average of 6-10 colds a year. While it is natural for parents to want to ease their symptoms the bad news is that there is no cure as viruses are not affected by antibiotics, which only attack secondary bacterial infections. The additional bad news is that no home remedies for coughs or colds will make the symptoms and the disease go away faster. Most colds run for 7-10 days and ultimately it takes this amount of time for the body to deal with the infection. Flu injections can help, but no universal flu vaccine has be developed and so the current flu strain is always one step beyond the one that the flu shot was designed to treat. There is no vaccine for the common cold.

However, some over-the-counter medicines and home remedies can help make the child feel better and do provide effective relief from the symptoms. This article summaries the various tips, guides and home remedies that have been proven to be effective in relieving the symptoms of coughs and colds in infants.

Tips for Relieving Infant Colds and Coughs with Natural Home Remedies

Getting Adequate Sleep - Infants that are overly tired may be more susceptible to getting coughs and colds. Preschoolers generally need 12 - 14 hours sleep a day, and grade-schoolers 10 - 11 hours. It helps for infants with coughs or colds to get extra sleep, which helps their bodies cope with the symptoms of the infection. It may also help to reduce the risk of a secondary infection.

Getting Adequate Fluids - Make sure infants are kept well hydrated, by maintaining their normal fluid intake, or exceeding it. For babies younger than 6 months, stick to breast milk or formula. Don’t give straight water to babies. For children older than 12 months, make sure the sick infant gets plenty of water, diluted juice and milk. The concept that milk promotes mucus is an unproven myth, and so milk is quite acceptable.

Using Honey to Relieve Persistent Coughs - Honey has been shown to be very effective. The recommended amounts varies with the age of the child. The doses recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics are:

  • It is not wise to give honey to babies younger than 12 months of age due to the risk of infant botulism.
  • For children aged 2 to 5 years - half-teaspoon of honey, every hour of so
  • For children aged 6 to 11 years - one-teaspoon
  • For children 12 years and older - two-teaspoons

Avoid Exposure to Smoke - Smoke can add to the irritation in inflamed airways. This applies to cigarette smoke and to smoke from grills, barbecues and wood-burning fires.

Avoid Exposure to Smoke - Smoke can add to the irritation in inflamed airways. This applies to cigarette smoke and to smoke from grills, barbecues and wood-burning fires.

Relieving Mild Sore and Scratchy Throats - As well as honey, soft food items such as gelatin desserts, jelly, custard, honey yogurt, puddings and ice cream can help take the sting out of a scratchy throat. If a child is reluctant to eat a their usual diet, try giving them some of these foods.

Saline drops or sprays also can relieve stuffy noses - Saline drops help clear stuffed noses even when kids are too young to blow their noses. Have children wait about 60-90 seconds after using the saline sprays before blowing their noses gently. For babies, whose stuffy nose interferes with breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, a bulb syringe can be used to introduce a little saline solution into the nose, or use one of the commercial saline nasal sprays. Try using a nasal spray about 15 minutes before feeding the baby. You can buy bottles of saline nose drops or easily make your own homemade version. Dissolve about 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water. Make a fresh saline solution each day. To use it, simply tip your child's head back slightly or have the child lie down. Squeeze 2-3 drops of saline solution into each nostril. Try to keep the child still for about 30 seconds. Get the child to gentle blow their nose. You can try using a bulb syringe to gently collect the mucus in the noses of very young infants, but this may irritate the membranes lining the inside of the nose.

Using Steam and Humidifiers - This is an old, but very effective technique for relieving the symptoms of mild chest infections and mucus congestion. Breathing humid air helps loosen and clear mucus that builds up in the air-way passages in the nose. Frequent warm baths, or steamy showers also relaxes the child, and helps make them feel better. A steamy bathroom can be very effective or you can buy or hire humidifiers, or various types of cool-mist and other vaporizer from pharmacists. They are commonly used to relieve asthma symptoms. Make sure you follow the instructions for using the machines, keeping them clean. Always use fresh water and cleaning the units frequently. Humidifier or vaporizers can be set up in a child's bedroom or playing area.

To create a steamy environment in your bathroom, prior to taking a bath or shower, let a very hot shower run for a few minutes with the door closed. Adding a few drops of an essential oil such as rosemary or menthol to the bath (or using a vaporizer) may also help relieve congestion.

Try mild vapor rubs for children older than 3 months of age - Once again this is an old reliable remedy that works for some children, provided they don't object to it or the vapor rub does not irritate the skin. You can find various vapor rub products made specifically for infants older than 3 months. Generally these rubs do not have camphor or menthol. There are many mild herbal and essential oils as well. Simply massage the vapor rub into your child's neck, chest and back. Keep away from lips, mouth, eyes and any broken or sensitive skin.

Encourage nose blowing for children older than 2 years - Clearing mucus from the nose helps with breathing and generally relieves discomfort and symptoms. Tips for encouraging nose blowing:

  • Encourage the child by getting them to copy you blowing your nose.
  • Show you child how to hold one nostril shut and gently blow out the other side.
  • Teach the child to blow gently, and firmly, but not too hard.
  • Teach your child to wash their hands after blowing his nose and not to rub their eyes before washing their hands.
  • If the nose is sore rub a little petroleum jelly or other child-safe cream around the nostrils.

Gargling with salt water for children older than 4 years - This is an old remedy for sore throats. Many people find it disgusting or unpleasant, but it does work. Various studies have shown that this is effective for relieving sore throats and clearing mucus build-up. Simply add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a glass of warm water and mix to dissolve. Adding a few drops of fresh orange or lemon juice can be beneficial and may improve the taste. Your child may need to be taught to gargle. But most school age kids can handle it. Try to have the child gargle the saline solution 3-4 times a day.

Antibiotics have been shown to be ineffective for coughs - Many parents try to encourage their doctors to prescribe antibiotics for coughs and colds. However a recent study published in the Lancet journal has confirmed that antibiotics don't work for relieving most coughs, unless they are due to secondary bacterial infections such as pneumonia. About 2,000 patients in Europe were involved in the study. It concluded that neither the duration or the severity of symptoms were different with groups who took antibiotics or a placebo. Common antibiotics only work on bacteria and an ineffective against the viruses that cause cold and flu infections and symptoms. The researchers warned that inappropriate use of antibiotics can lead to the development of resistance. Many antibiotics also have side effects in some people, including diarrhoea, rashes and even vomiting.

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson


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