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How to treat a cold without cold medications

It’s wise to avoid over-the-counter cold medicines. Drug manufacturers suggest they not be given to children under age 4. The Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing the safety of these drugs for older kids. Some cold medicines can even worsen breathing problems, which can be fatal.

If your child is under 3 months or has a fever over 102º F, is urinating less often than usual, is in pain, coughs for more than a week or has yellow eye discharge or thick green nasal discharge that lasts more than two weeks, call your pediatrician. Otherwise, try these remedies:

  • Keep kids hydrated. It helps loosen congestion. Think orange juice, chicken soup and water.
  • Soothe stuffy noses. Saline drops thin mucus, improving breathing, and cool-mist humidifiers relieve irritated nasal passages.
  • Target coughs and scratchy throats. Honey may help: Try a half-teaspoon for preschoolers or 1 teaspoon for grade-schoolers. Never give honey to children under age 1. Older kids can try sucking on candies or cough drops or gargling salt water.
  • Reduce fevers. If your child has a fever and is very uncomfortable, acetaminophen or ibuprofen may bring relief; follow dosing guidelines. Never give ibuprofen to infants under 6 months.