How to Treat Cold and Cough in Infants and Children

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Dec 19, 2013

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Quick Bites

  • Make sure children stay hydrated, and give them what they like drinking.
  • An oral electrolyte solution designed for infants also can be given.
  • Give a half-teaspoon of honey to children ages 2 to 5.
  • Soft foods such as puddings and chicken soup feel good to a scratchy throat.

National Institutes of Health say that children, on an average, suffer 6 to 10 colds a year and the condition is usually accompanied by cough. The cough is discomforting and can be nagging. The bad news for parents is that cold and cough run their course of 7 to 10 days and treatments or remedies help little.

treating cough in childrenAt best, medical treatments or home remedies can relieve symptoms and help manage the persistent cough. The symptoms usually are worse in the first 2-3 days, subsequently easing out over the next few days as the immune system mops up the virus.

When they see their child coughing his lungs out, many parents look around for medical and alternate treatments to put their child at ease. They wonder is honey will work for a cough, or if thick fluids like milk will worsen the child’s problem.

If you are looking at medical treatment options, you must consider that FDA had warned in January 2008 against giving popular over-the-counter cold and cough remedies for infants.  Such medicines can severely harm your child if he is less than two years of age.

The non-prescription remedies for cold and cough in children are antihistamines for runny noses, decongestants for stuffy noses, cough suppressants, and expectorants for loosening mucus to relieve congestion.

Some guidelines can help soothe cough and other symptoms of cold. They are:

Make sure your baby stays hydrated. Provide them what they are used to drinking. Breast feed children younger than 6 months. To infants, an oral electrolyte solution specially designed for their age can be given.

Do not give straight water to babies younger than 6 months; it may cause an electrolyte imbalance because their kidneys can’t process it. Try water, diluted juice, and milk for children older than a year. It is an old wives’ tale that milk shouldn’t be given to children suffering cold and cough for it promotes mucous building. There is no scientific evidence to prove this myth.

American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that if your baby is of age 2-5 years, give him half-teaspoon of honey; 1 teaspoon to children of ages 6- 11; and 2 teaspoons to those 12 and older. Do not give honey to babies younger than 1 because of the risk of infant botulism.

If you smoke, it can irritate your child’s already inflamed airways. Not just during cold season, but it is advised not to smoke in a home with children during any time of the year. While your child has cold and cough, make sure they stay away from smoke- that can come from other sources also like grills and wood-burning fires.

You must discuss the persistent cough with doctor if it lasts for more than 10 days or keeps your child from sleeping.

Cough makes the child’s throat scratchy. Soft foods like puddings, chicken or vegetable soups, gelatine desserts can help soothe the rough throat. Try giving your child some of these if he refuses to eat the usual food.

Cold and cough have another best friend which follows them everywhere- congestion. If your child complains of congestion, put a few drops of saline nasal drops in his nostrils. This applies to infants too. Babies breathe through their noses and not their mouths. Their nasal passages are small which should be relieved of congestion soon.

Although cold and cough are common infections that affect children, you must seek medical help immediately if your child is too weak to respond well or he complains of a tight feeling in his chest.


Read more articles on Cold and Flu.

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