Article at a Glance
Your little one is sick, but all the cold medicines are for children six years old and older. What do you do?
In 2007, nonprescription cold medicines for children under four were taken off the market because they hadn’t been proven effective in young children and posed a significant health risk. Accidental overdoses in young children are dangerous and can even lead to death. Since then, cold medicine related ER visits for children under two years old have dropped by more than half.
Children under 4 should not use cold and cough medications, and children ages 4 to 6 should only use them when directed by a doctor.
Even without cold medications there are still a lot of things you can do for your child. You may also want to try these tips with your older children before you reach for the cold medicine.
Stay Hydrated: One of the most important things you can do is to keep your child hydrated. Drinking lots of fluids will help thin out mucus, which makes it easier to cough it up or blow it out of the nose. Stick to things like water, fruit juices, herbal teas, and milk. Steer clear of caffeinated or sugary drinks like soda. Popsicles can be used if your child does not feel like drinking anything.
Nasal Congestion: You can loosen nasal congestion by using a few drops of nasal saline a day. Older children can then just blow their noses or you can use a bulb suction on younger children. Teach your child to blow out instead of sniffing the mucus back in. Standing in a steamy bathroom or using a cold mist humidifier by the bed can also help.
Warm Liquids: For coughs and sore throats, a simple warm tea made with honey and lemon can help. Babies less than 12 months old should not be given honey.
Elevate: Tucking extra pillows under your child’s head at night can help ease nasal congestion and coughing. If your child moves around a lot at night and won’t stay on the pillows, elevate the head of the bed a little by sticking a couple of books under the bed’s legs.
Vaccinate: One of the best ways to treat the flu is to prevent it in the first place. The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for most children 6 months and older. Learn more about our walk-in flu shot availability.