The typical cold lasts anywhere from four to ten days. Because it is a virus, there isn’t anything you can do to make it go away quicker. For colds, the best you can do is treat the symptoms and make your child more comfortable.
You might be tempted to head to the store for over-the-counter cold medication; however, these medications should be used with caution. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends avoiding these products in children under six years old, and they should not be given to children under the age of two years old.
Here are some things you can do at home to soothe your child’s cold symptoms:
Let your child get plenty of rest. Your body needs energy to fight off the cold and resting allows your body to use its energy for healing. Encourage your child to take naps, lay down and watch a video or television. Provide activities such as crayons, paper and coloring books, or magazines and books to read.
Use a cool-mist humidifier. Moist air can help loosen mucus in the nasal passage and relieve stuffiness. Look for a humidifier that works with cool-mist and keep it going while your child is resting and during the night. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning. If you don’t have a humidifier, you can have your child take a warm bath in a steamy bathroom (or sit in the steamy bathroom and read books).
Have your child drink plenty of fluids. It’s important to stay hydrated when sick. If your child has a fever, he can become dehydrated quickly. Keep a steady supply of fluids handy. Use a large water bottle filled with ice water, offer herbal teas, fruit juices or ice-pops to give your child a variety of fluids throughout the day.
Elevate your child’s head. Keeping your child’s head elevated can help the mucus drain. Prop up your child’s head with several pillows or prop up the entire mattress by putting a rolled up towel or yoga mat under one side of the mattress.
Use a saline nasal spray. Saline sprays are a mixture of salt and water and can be used to help relieve stuffiness or discomfort in the sinuses. You can purchase a saline spray or you can make your own with two teaspoons of salt to one pint of water. Have your child blow his nose and then squirt into each nostril while holding the other nostril closed.
Besides these home remedies, your grandmother’s insistence that chicken soup helps cure colds just might be true. The steam from the soup helps loosen congestion, the broth hydrates the body, and some studies have shown that chicken soup can have an anti-inflammatory effect, which can help lessen symptoms such as cough and stuffiness.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.