Natural Cold Treatments for Kids

When your child is suffering from the miserable symptoms of a cold, it can be tempting to reach for an over-the-counter remedy to help make them feel better. But the fact is, studies have shown that cough and cold medicines to be ineffective in children younger than 6. And while the FDA hasn’t yet issued a guideline for school-age kids, cold medication labels now say these medicines are not recommended for children younger than 4. Add to that scary potential side effects such as rapid heartbeat, convulsions, and even death, and natural treatments suddenly seem like a much better option.

Mother checking temperature of sick daughter
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How to Help Ease Your Child's Cold Symptoms

Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about your child’s symptoms to ensure there are no concerns that she is suffering from an illness more serious than the common cold. Then, try the following natural home remedies to help your child feel better:

  • Give your child raw honey for a cough. Studies have shown that raw honey can treat coughs more effectively than over-the-counter medicines. Mix with a little warm water or put into some noncaffeinated herbal tea — or even give it to your child straight — and you have an excellent cough remedy for your school-age child. (But be sure to never give honey to a child younger than 1-year-old as babies this age face a risk of botulism from eating honey.)
  • Coax your child to have some chicken soup. This is one old-fashioned remedy that seems to have some merit. Studies have shown that components of chicken soup may help ease the symptoms of respiratory tract infections. Even if your child says they aren't very hungry, try to have him at least sip some broth.
  • Try saline nose drops or sprays. This natural remedy can help open up blocked nasal passages, making it easier for your child to breathe. But be sure to steer clear of sprays containing medications, which could worsen symptoms or cause other side effects.
  • Make it easier for your child to rest. Your child will be better able to fight off an infection if their body is well-rested. If they beg you for some time to play a video game or a DVD, be sure to limit such stimulating activities. Encourage rest by darkening his room, playing some soothing music and even giving your child a massage to help them fall asleep.
  • Try a cool-mist humidifier. Increasing the humidity in your child’s room can help ease his congestion and help him breathe. Be sure to clean the humidifier to prevent germ build-up.

Other Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Call your healthcare provider right away if your child seems to be having trouble breathing. The same goes if his fever persists for more than four days. Your child should also be seen by your practitioner if cold symptoms last for more than 10 days.
  • Be careful about dosage. If you and your healthcare provider decide that your child should have some cold or cough medicine, make sure you use the dispenser that comes with that particular medicine. Using a regular teaspoon or a cup from another medicine bottle can give you an inaccurate dose.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about medications. Be very careful when giving your child different medications. Some cold and cough medications can combine ingredients—such as a fever-reducer and expectorant and cough suppressant—so if you use that and another medicine, you could be putting your child at risk of an overdose.
  • Make sure to keep your child well-hydrated.
  • Never give your child a medication that is meant for adults.
  • Remember to wash your hands frequently to avoid getting sick yourself and have other family members do the same.

With plenty of rest and lots of TLC from you, your child will be back to himself in no time.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • "American Academy of Pediatrics Urges Caution in Use of Over-the-Counter Cough and Cold Medicines."

  • Paul IM, Beiler J, McMonagle A, Shaffer ML, Duda L, Berlin CM Jr. Effect of honey, dextromethorphan, and no treatment on nocturnal cough and sleep quality for coughing children and their parents. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. 2007;161(12):1149-53.

  • Rennard BO, Ertl RF, Gossman GL, Robbins RA, Rennard SI. Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in Vvtro. CHEST 2000 118(4):1150-7.

By Katherine Lee
Katherine Lee is a parenting writer and a former editor at Parenting and Working Mother magazines.