How to help my child sleep and feel better without medicine?
"Understandably, parents will try anything to help their child feel better and sleep through the night during a cold," says Dr. Brown. "I too have spent my share of nights with a sick kid sleeping on my shoulder." But with no proven benefit and definite established risk, ditch the meds and try these natural -- and effective -- remedies instead:
Rx: Soothe congestion with saline drops
Why it works: Saline nasal drops help move the mucus out of the nose. Until your child can blow her own nose (anywhere from age 2 to 6), you'll also need a bulb syringe to remove the gunk.
What to do: Rest baby in your lap so her head's titled slightly back, then, using an eye dropper, squirt a drop or two of saline solution into each nostril. Squeeze the bulb to get the air out, then gently put the tip into your child's nostril; as you stop squeezing, the mucus should flow in. (Don't forget to clean the bulb out after!)
Doing this up to four times a day -- and especially before bed -- may cut back on your kid's congestion and help her sleep more soundly. If your baby's breastfeeding or bottlefeeding, do this right before her feedings. "Babies breathe through their noses while eating, so this will help them feed easier and longer," Dr. Kuo says.
Rx: Fuel up with fluids
Why it works: If your child's drinking enough, it will loosen the mucus in her nose and throat, which will help her breathe. Plus, feverish kids lose fluids and may become dehydrated more easily, so it's very important to keep the liquids coming.
What to do: "Offer clear fluids such as Pedialyte; if you're breastfeeding, breastmilk, every hour or so to babies under 2," says Kuo. "For older kids, use a sippy cup with diluted fruit juice, Gatorade, or flat soda, since these fluids are absorbed better than plain water." Can you overdo it? Probably not. Most kids will reflexively refuse the drink if they've had too much already, says Kuo.
Rx: Make bedtime better with a humidifier
What to do: Remember to change the water and clean the filter every other day to avoid germ build-up. And steer clear of hot-water humidifiers, which can pose a burn risk to young kids, should they accidentally topple over.
Rx: Treat the fever
Why it works: You've probably heard that fevers aren't necessarily harmful -- they're usually just a sign that your child's fighting off the cold. But if the fever's making your baby cranky, restless or achy, medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) can bring the temperature down within an hour.
What to do: Don't give meds to babies under 3 months until you call the pediatrician -- he'll likely want you the bring the baby in. You can give acetaminophen to babies between 3 and 6 months and ibuprofen to babies over 6 months.