Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Treating the Common Cold in Children


Am Fam Physician. 2012 Jul 15;86(2):online.

  See related article on treatment of the common cold in children and adults.

What do I do if my child has a cold?

Most colds don't cause serious illness and will get better over time. Cold symptoms can be treated with some over-the-counter remedies, although some over-the-counter treatments shouldn't be used in young children. Always talk to your doctor before giving your child over-the-counter treatments.

What over-the-counter treatments are helpful in children?

  • Buckwheat honey: Eases cough, but shouldn't be used in children younger than one year

  • Nasal saline spray: Helps sore throat, runny nose, and stuffy nose

  • Pelargonium sidoides (geranium) extract (one brand: Umcka Coldcare): Eases cough and can help your child breathe better through the nose

  • Vapor rub: Eases cough, but your child may not like the strong smell

  • Zinc sulfate syrup: Decreases how long your child has cold symptoms, but it may cause a bad taste in the mouth and upset your child's stomach

What treatments are not helpful in children?

  • Antibiotics

  • Echinacea purpurea

  • Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2012 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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