Treating the Common Cold In Toddlers

Toddlers catch 8–10 colds per year—and if your child is in preschool or daycare, that number could be even higher. That’s a lot of coughing, sneezing, congestion and fatigue for 1 small person.

Since the common cold is caused by so many different viruses, there’s no cure or preventative medicines. You can help ease symptoms by using:

  • a cold-mist vaporizer or humidifier
  • saline drops
  • medications recommended by your child’s doctor

Do not give your child over-the-counter cold medicines, even those brands designed for children. These have not been proven safe or effective for children under age 5, and the Food and Drug Administration advises against them.

While acetaminophen and ibuprofen can bring down a fever, syrups that contain dextromethorpan and diphenhydramine (marked on the labels as “dm” or “dph”) can cause side effects that may lead to more serious conditions than a cough.

Research has found that honey can help quiet children’s nighttime cough. Use about a half a teaspoon for your toddler. (Do not give honey to children under age 1 because of the risk of infant botulism.)

Avoid giving your toddler any extra vitamins or minerals without your doctor’s approval.

And be on the lookout for signs a cold has led to an ear infection—tugging at the ear, pain on swallowing, or tears in the middle of the night.

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide medical advice about your child. Always seek the advice of a physician, qualified healthcare provider or child-development specialist with any questions you have about your child's health, medical condition or development. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you read here.

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