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Managing your child’s cold symptoms

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It Author: Jill Amsberry, D.O.

Nothing is more difficult than seeing your little one sick. The following is a list of ways that you can help them feel better until the illness is gone:

Stuffy nose

  • Try saltwater (saline) nose drops or spray followed by bulb suction or nasal aspirator.
  • Put a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer in your child’s room. Don’t forget to clean the machine every day.


  • Fever is a natural reaction to illness. Therefore, it is not necessary to give medicine when your child has a fever.
  • If you feel your child needs medicine to help his or her symptoms, acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be used depending on age. Be sure to ask your doctor for the correct dose. A child less than six months should not use ibuprofen.
  • Ibuprofen and Tylenol should not be given at the same time or alternated back and forth. This can lead to errors in dosing which could be harmful to your child.
  • Do not give your child aspirin, which has been linked to a rare but serious illness in children.

Flu vaccine

  • Flu vaccine can keep you and your children from getting sick from the flu. If your child does get sick, the illness may be more mild because he/she received the vaccine.
  • Children six months or older should be vaccinated for the flu every year.
  • For infants younger than six months, be sure the people around them are vaccinated.

Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines

  • Try a spoonful of honey for cough. Do not give honey to children less than one year of age.
  • Cough and cold medicines have not been shown to be helpful in children for symptoms of the common cold. In fact, they often have more side effects than benefit.
  • Do not give any cough and cold medicine to a child younger than 4.
  • Beware of double dosing — many cold medicines already have acetaminophen.


  • Antibiotics are not helpful for the common cold. However, antibiotics may be prescribed if your provider feels your child has a bacterial infection in addition to their cold.

Call your health care provider if your child is not getting better with treatment or log in to MyChart to send a secure message to your provider.