Watching your child suffer through sniffles, coughs and fevers is no picnic. But take heart: Most kids’ cold symptoms improve on their own.
Still, you may be tempted to reach for cough and cold medicine. But many experts discourage medications for children younger than age 4; one reason is because of the risk of accidental overdose (children taking too much of the medication while unsupervised or given two medications with the same ingredients). In 2007, drug makers voluntarily pulled medicines for young children off the shelves because the decongestants can cause hallucinations and irregular heartbeats, and the sedative effect of antihistamines can worsen breathing problems.
To help your child through this miserable time:
- Breathe easier. Drinking plenty of fluids can help loosen congestion. You can also apply saline drops to the nasal passages.
- Ease irritation. Gargling salt water can relieve a sore throat, and a cool-mist humidifier can help soothe irritated nasal passages.
- Cool a fever. Most low-grade fevers (under 102° F) don’t require treatment. However, contact the pediatrician to see if he or she wants to see your child. The doctor may recommend trying acetaminophen in infants or ibuprofen in children who are 6 months of age and older. Never use aspirin in children younger than age 18, as it’s been associated with Reye’s syndrome, a potentially fatal illness that affects all organs.
- Rest up. Keep your child home to allow his or her body time to recover.
If your child’s cold symptoms get worse, contact the pediatrician. It could be a sign of a more serious illness such as bronchitis or asthma. For a child younger than age 3 months, call his or her doctor at the first sign of illness.