The common cold is, alas, all too common. Studies show that babies and kids can get as many eight or even 10 colds per year. And since medical experts now advise against using over-the-counter drugs for kids under age six, parents are eagerly searching for safe ways to bring their little patients relief.
The common cold is an upper respiratory virus. Antibiotics, which are effective in treating bacterial infections, can't cure a virus. In other words, a cold simply has to run its course, which usually takes about a week. Of course, it's always your call when to see your pediatrician.
The good news is, there are a number of safe, drug-free ways you can alleviate your child's cold symptoms. These may include a runny nose, sore throat, coughing, sneezing, mild fever (especially at night), loss of appetite, and irritability. Here's our favorite natural and alternative ways to make sniffling, snuffling kids more comfortable.
Aspirators clear out the gunk and relieve stuffed noses. As a faster alternative to bulb aspirators (which many babies and parents object to), consider our battery-operated version, Nasal Clear.
When mucus is thick, saline drops can be helpful. Place a few drops of pure saline solution (never medicated) in each nostril, and then immediately apply suction. This is especially helpful before meals, particularly for newborns, since it's harder for babies to nurse when sinuses are clogged.
Steam liquefies mucus, loosening up congestion and making breathing easier. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using a cool-mist vaporizer around little ones for safety (if tipped over, a hot water vaporizer can cause burns). Or try our Waterless Vaporizer, which runs on pre-moistened aromatherapy pads. Similarly, letting kids safely breathe in the warm steam of a nearby hot shower may help. (Needless to say, never put little ones in the shower, and always stay with them around water.)
Propping up the head of baby's mattress encourages mucus to drain naturally, which can reduce coughing and congestion. Our Comfort Positioning Seat makes propping easy and stable.
Good hydration is always important (fluids keep the body functioning), but it's absolutely essential when kids are sick, especially when they're feverish.
Our moms were right! Chicken soup, which has been using as a cold remedy since the 12th Century, really does offer medical benefits. A study at the University of Nebraska indicates that, in addition to the congestion relief provided by warm liquids, chicken soup may actually function as an anti-inflammatory. Besides that, it's hydrating (not to mention comforting).
If it's not too cold, take baby outside for a brisk walk around the block. The air may temporarily clear your child's head and the change of scene might provide a welcome distraction.
Ear infections can result from clogged sinuses, so be on the lookout for symptoms, such as pulling or tugging at the ears, crying, irritability, and sleeplessness. Another option: our Ear Check monitor, which measures fluid in the middle ear.
If your child has any kind of fever, you'll want to keep a close eye on it. When do you call the pediatrician? Ask your doctor for guidelines, which vary depending on your child's age.
It's not safe to give honey to babies under 12 months. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests trying honey to soothe an older child's cough. Ask your pediatrician if he or she recommends it, and if so, how much to give.
While colds are not avoidable, there are things you can do to limit your child's exposure to viruses. Remember, germs are often transferred through sneezing, coughing, or touching someone who is carrying particles on their skin. So...
On the bright side, once kids are exposed to a particular virus, they develop a natural immunity to it. So as kids mature and their immune systems develop, they will catch fewer and fewer colds. TLC-based strategies really can help kids feel better.
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