kids' colds solutions

Get the expert advice you need to soothe your child's sniffles.

These simple suggestions can help you lessen the unpleasant symptoms, comfort your kids, and help them beat back that cold.
If it seems like your child gets a lot of colds, you're right!

The common cold--which is caused by any one of over 200 viruses--infects kids much more often than adults. In part, this difference is because each time we get a cold, we develop immunity to the particular virus that caused it. Our immunity to different cold viruses over time means we contract fewer colds the older we get.

Hygiene is also an important factor: Children are more likely not to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and not wash their hands as frequently or as thoroughly, thus spreading the virus to others. That's also why kids in daycare and preschool and kids with siblings get more colds--and why parents get more colds than adults without children do!

The following advice will help ensure you're ready the next time a cold comes your child's way.

Rest is Best

Your child's body needs its strength to fight off a cold virus, so make sure kids get plenty of sleep, or at least lots of quiet time in bed or on the couch. If your child becomes restless, keep him occupied with books, coloring pages, music, or a favorite movie or DVD.

Feed a Cold AND a Fever

The old adage is partially right. Experts agree you should keep your kids well-nourished while they have a cold. But don't try to "starve a fever!" The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests offering your child frequent small meals and snacks to help them keep up their strength--even though your child may not have much of an appetite while she's sick.

Keep the Fluids Flowing

Doctors typically recommend serving up plenty of fluids when kids are sick with a cold. Part of the reason, the AAP points out, is that when children's noses are stuffy, they breathe through their mouths, causing their mouth and their throat to get dry, which is uncomfortable and speeds dehydration. The American Lung Association (ALA) suggests "Eight glasses of water and/or juice per day. . . . This will help keep the lining of the nose and throat from drying out, so that mucus remains moist and easy to clear from the nose." A cool-mist humidifier placed in the child's room will also help keep kids' sinuses moist.

Old standbys like orange juice and chicken soup are good choices for hydration. Although there are conflicting reports as to the effectiveness of Vitamin C in shortening the duration or lessening the effects of a cold, a tall glass of OJ can't hurt. Chicken soup--Grandma's favorite remedy--has also been studied and, as the Mayo Clinic reports, "It does seem to help relieve cold and flu symptoms in two ways. First, it acts as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the movement of neutrophils--immune system cells that participate in the body's inflammatory response. Second, it temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus through the nose, helping relieve congestion and limiting the amount of time viruses are in contact with the nose lining."

If your child is fed up with fluids, try popsicles, which help soothe sore throats.

Fighting that Feverish Feeling

Kids with colds may experience a low-grade fever of 102°F or less--an indication that the body is fighting the virus--and the achy, uncomfortable feeling that comes with it. Experts disagree on when parents should reach for the ibuprofen or acetaminophen to treat those symptoms, so it's worth checking with your child's doctor if you're unsure. (Important Note: Health organizations such as the American Lung Association, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and AAP all warn parents not to give aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) to children with cold, flu, or chicken pox as it can lead to a potentially deadly condition known as Reye's syndrome.) The Mayo Clinic suggests parents "be especially careful when giving acetaminophen to children because the dosing guidelines can be confusing."

Use Cough & Cold Medicines Carefully

The FDA recommends parents read all instructions and warning labels on medications they give to their children, and advises parents not to give kids medicines labeled for adults or give their children more than one medicine with the same active ingredient. For more information about cough and cold medications for children, check out the FDA's Consumer Update, "Using Over-the-Counter Cough and Cold Products in Children."

Call the Doctor

Of course parents should call their child's pediatrician whenever they have concerns, but the AAP specifically advises parents to call the pediatrician if their child starts to have difficulty breathing, develops an earache, or if a child's sore throat worsens. Also, if your child has a fever for more than 48 hours or has had a cold for more than ten days, call the doctor. The Mayo Clinic recommends calling the doctor if your child exhibits any of the following:

  • Fever of 103°F or higher, chills, or sweating
  • Fever that lasts more than three days
  • Vomiting or abdominal pain
  • Unusual sleepiness
  • Severe headache
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent crying
  • Ear pain
  • Persistent cough
  • Important Disclaimer: This information is not meant as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a doctor with questions about your or your child's condition. does not recommend or endorse specific tests, products, procedures, opinions, or other information provided by any sponsors or other third parties. Please also see Terms of Use.
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