Help for coughs, colds, and sore throats

Dr. Melissa Arca

Well it’s officially here, we are in the midst of cold and flu season. And with that; sore throats, stuffy noses, and coughs are a plenty. The thing about most of these ailments is that they are primarily caused by viruses (versus bacteria) so antibiotics just don’t help.

So while there’s simply no quick fix for helping our kids get through the run of the mill cold, there is certainly plenty you can do to help him/her feel (and sleep) better.

Here’s what you need to get through cold and flu season:

  • Cool Mist Humidifier: this is one of my favorites. It’s great for adding moisture back to dry indoor air particularly during Fall and Winter. It’s soothes sore throats, eases stuffy noses, and calms pesky coughs.
  • Normal saline drops, plus or minus a good nose sucker. Young children often have not mastered the fine art of blowing their noses. So all that congestion just stays there, interfering with eating, breathing, and sleeping. And it can be quite annoying and frustrating for them. Try some drops followed a little gentle nose suction (I like NoseFrida). Do this before eating and sleeping to help your little feel (and breathe) better.
  • Keep the water coming. Fluids are so incredibly important during your child’s illness. Keep a water bottle handy for her to sip all day long. It will replenish fluids lost through coughing and/or fevers and help thin out that thick mucus. Never underestimate the importance of good old fashion water.
  • For kids over the age of 1, honey has been shown to be a great nighttime cough reliever. Try 1/2-1 tsp of honey about 30 minutes before bedtime. Remember that children under 1 are at risk for botulism if given honey.
  • A little extra cuddles and attention will go a long way in making your child feel better. It’s completely normal for your child to be extra clingy and just “not himself” while he’s sick. So, go ahead and pour on the love. It helps. A lot.

What about medicines?

While it might be tempting to reach into the medicine cabinet for your favorite cough suppressant and/or decongestant; remember that kids under the age of 4 should NOT be given any OTC cough or cold medicines. They just haven’t been proven safe or effective in this age group. In addition, they are not typically recommended for children ages 4-6. So only use them in this age group if your child’s healthcare provider recommends them.

But, the fever…

Yes, fevers often go hand in hand with a cold and/or flu (much more so with the flu). But don’t panic. Fever means your child’s body is doing its job…fighting off an infection. No need to rush in and get rid of it. Treat your child, not the number on the thermometer. Often, kids will do just fine unless the temp starts rising to 102 F or above. In those cases, a little fever reducer will help them cool down and feel better.

Now you know…you can help your little one during cold and flu season with nary an antibiotic in sight


Dr. Melissa Arca is a pediatrician, mom of two, writer, blogger, and child advocate. She is author of the award winning blog, Confessions of a Dr. Mom and writes a weekly parenting/children’s health column for her local paper, The Sacramento Bee. In her free time you can find her at the beach with her husband and two kids (ages 5 and 7), coffee in hand.