It's the middle of the night and your 3-year-old won't stop coughing. And this isn't just a small, quiet cough. This is a full-on, hacking cough that reverberates through the baby monitor preventing you from sleeping. But before you go reaching for that bottle of children's cough syrup, educate yourself on the do's and don'ts of over-the-counter medicines and what you can do at home to help alleviate symptoms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), serious injuries and deaths have been reported among infants and children (ages 1-3) who received over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, but most adverse events resulted from overdoses or unsupervised ingestions. As a result, in 2008, most drug manufacturers changed their labeling on over-the –counter medication to state that children under the age of 4 should not be given these products.
So what are some things you can do for you children — younger and older — to give them some relief from cold and flu symptoms?
Advice from a local RN
"Two things that concern me the most when little people have colds/flu: fever and dehydration. Their little bodies can dehydrate very quickly so it's important to get them to take fluids," states Charli Bitanga, a Fredericksburg-area registered nurse. "That can be a challenge because if they have sore throats or no desire to drink, it is difficult to get fluids into them. Some parents will freeze Pedialyte, but it doesn't taste very good and can be expensive. Try freezing little cubes of orange juice or apple juice. Sucking on the cubes can soothe a sore throat, lower temp and help prevent dehydration. Also, lukewarm baths are also effective at lowering temps while relaxing and soothing your little one.
"Stuffy noses make it difficult to breathe and sleep," Bitanga continues. "Pile up pillows or a wedge to elevate their heads to promote ease of breathing. Humidifiers are helpful to ease stuffy noses. If your child is not able to blow their nose, saline drops in the nose with a booger sucker will help to clear their sinuses."
Advice from a local pediatrician
Nimali Fernando, M.D., MPH, and founder of The Doctor Yum Project and Yum Pediatrics, makes the following suggestions:
• Honey is a great way to soothe the throat and calm a cough. In some studies, it has been shown to be as effective as dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in many cough mediations.
• Salt water is great to irrigate the nose and also to gargle.
• Make a thick paste with a little turmeric (a bright yellow spice found in South Asian cooking) and honey and give a small spoonful to kids to suck on like a lozenge. The turmeric has been proven to have antiviral and antibacterial properties. My kids love this!
• Add lemon to your tea which helps boost vitamin C and your immune system.
• Chicken soup has compounds which along with the warm steam from the broth can thin mucous secretions during a cold.
On Pinterest, results for "cold remedies" searches are lengthy, yet informative. What works for one person may not work for another. However, one of the most common recommendations from users is to create a mixture of one tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar, one tablespoon of honey, and one tablespoon of water to take when cold symptoms start.
Kerry Pinto is a freelance writer living in Stafford.