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Cold and cough home remedies for children: What works?

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

It can be hard to see your little one suffering but there are things that can help ease cough and cold symptoms whilst the body is naturally fighting colds and coughs.

Colds usually run their course in 7 to 14 days, but some over the counter products and medicines can help ease a child's symptoms.

When you are buying over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, make sure you get ones appropriate for the age of your child. Check with a pharmacist if you are unsure.

Here are some tips on soothing coughs and other cold symptoms.


Sweating and runny noses mean it is important for a child to stay hydrated. Give them drinks they are used to drinking.

For babies, stick to breast milk or formula milk. An oral electrolyte solution designed for infants can also be given if advised by your doctor. Don’t give plain water to babies younger than six months without medical advice; their kidneys can’t process it correctly and an electrolyte imbalance may occur.

For children older than 12 months, try water, diluted juice and milk.

Sometimes parents hear that they shouldn’t give milk because it promotes mucus building. That’s an old wives’ tale with no scientific evidence to back it up. It’s especially important for babies to continue drinking breast milk or formula milk.


For a baby younger than three months check with your GP.

For babies from three months old age-appropriate paracetamol or ibuprofen can be given. Make sure to use the measuring spoon or measuring device included with the medicine and follow the dosage instructions. Household measuring spoons may not measure accurately, resulting in an overdose, so shouldn’t be used.

Seek medical advice or talk to a pharmacist about the right dosage if you are unsure.

Aspirin should not be taken by children under 16 years old because of the risk of developing Reye’s syndrome, a serious illness that can damage the brain and liver.

If an infant younger than three months has a temperature that is 38C (100.4F) or higher, or if a baby aged 3-6 months has a temperature of 39C (102.2F) or higher, seek medical advice straight away. In young infants this can be a sign of a serious infection. Also seek medical advice if a child older than six months has a temperature higher than 40C (104F).

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