All-Natural Cold & Cough Remedies
And to make matters worse, experts now say that kids under 6 shouldn't use over-the-counter cold and cough medicine because of potentially dangerous side effects. So what's a concerned parent to do? Here are tips to help fend off germs in the first place and how to help her feel better fast if she does get sick.
Have a prevention plan: Kids miss nearly 22 million school days each year due to colds. Though you can't protect your child from every virus she encounters, these healthy habits can increase her resistance.
- Make sure she catches enough zzz's. If your child is tired all the time, her immune system may be too sluggish to fight off bad bugs. Unfortunately, a third of all kids don't get as much sleep as they should. Ideally, babies need up to 18 hours a day, toddlers and preschoolers need 12 to 14 hours, and grade-schoolers should get 10 to 11 hours.Â
- Teach him to wash his hands frequently. Practically 80 percent of infectious diseases, including the common cold, are spread through touch, so it's crucial for your child to wash his hands a lot. To make sure he scrubs for enough time, have him sing "Happy Birthday" while he lathers up both sides of his hands and between his fingers. Alcohol-based hand wipes or sanitizers are good options for when you're on the go.
- Keep your home clean.Once one person in the family catches a cold, be extra careful about cleaning so no one else gets sick too. It's a challenge: Viruses can live for up to two hours on things like cups, countertops, and towels, so disinfect frequently touched areas and objects with bleach or antibacterial wipes. Show your child how to sneeze and cough into the crook of her elbow, not her hands, so she's less likely to spread germs around the house.Â
Cough & Sore Throats: Coughing helps your child breathe better by clearing mucus from her airways, so don't try to stop it. Cough suppressants may actually be harmful. They make some kids hyperactive, dizzy, and restless at bedtime. Nonetheless, all that hacking can leave your kid's throat irritated. Before the FDA's recent warning, about one in 10 children took cold or cough medicine in a given week. Now that these medications are out for infants andtoddlers, and questionable for older kids, try some of these safer alternatives.
- Provide sweet relief. Recent studies show that honey is better than cough medicine for relieving coughs and helping a sick child sleep better. Honey is safe for children age 1 and older. Dark honeys, such as buckwheat, may work best because they're higher in antioxidants. Give half a teaspoon to children ages 1 to 5 years and one teaspoon to kids ages 6 to 11. But never give honey to babies younger than 1; they can get botulism from bacteria in it.
- Serve soup. It's more than an old folk remedy. Research shows that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Push liquids. Warm or very cold liquids thin out mucus, making it easier to cough up. Plus, liquids soothe a raw throat and keep kids hydrated. Have your child drink ice water, cold or warm juice, or decaffeinated tea mixed with honey.
- Offer something to suck on. Children age 4 and older can suck on sore throat or cough lozenges, sugar-free hard candies, or even frozen berries. A Popsicle or crushed ice are great choices for a younger kid with a scratchy throat.
Stuffy or Runny Nose: You may be going through a lot of tissues, but all that mucus helps wash the cold virus out of your child's nose and sinuses. Don't panic if you notice his mucus changing from clear to yellow to green. It's a sign that his immune system is fighting off the virus; it doesn't mean he needs antibiotics.
- Give her nose a squirt. Loosen up clogged mucus with a few drops of saline solution, then suck it out with a suction bulb.
- Moisten the air. Keep a cool-mist humidifier in your child's room to help ease stuffiness. (Warm-mist humidifiers and vaporizers are scalding hazards.) Bacteria and mold grow quickly, so change the water daily and thoroughly clean the unit, following the manufacturer's instructions. Another good option. Have your child sit in a steamy bathroom or take a warm shower.
- Prop her up.Elevate your child's head with an extra pillow at night so mucus can drain. For babies, raise the head of the crib mattress by placing a wedge or pillow under the mattress.
Fever: If your child's temp is up, it's a sign that his immune system is working hard to fight the cold bugs - so it's best to let a fever run its course unless he seems uncomfortable. The exception: If your baby is under 3 months and has a fever of 100.4 degrees F. or higher, call your doctor. Fever in a baby can be dangerous.
- Give him a bath. A five-minute sponge bath in lukewarm water can help your kid feel cooler and can lower his temperature.
- Try fever reducers. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen should bring down your child's fever and ease body aches . Always give acetaminophen - not ibuprofen - to infants younger than 6 months, and never give aspirin to children. It can cause a rare, sometimes fatal illness called Reye's syndrome.
- Keep her hydrated.Your child loses more water when her body's fighting a fever, so make sure you offer her plenty of fluids to keep her from becoming dehydrated. Try oral rehydration solutions; they contain a mixture of water and salt that helps kids replenish fluids and electrolytes.
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