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 But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date.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 familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.
Information from Your Family Doctor
Treating the Common Cold in Children
Am Fam Physician. 2019 Sep 1;100(5):online.
See related article on treatment of the common cold
What should 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 certain over-the-counter medicines, but some of these should not be used in young children. Always talk to your doctor or pharmacist before giving your child over-the-counter cold medicine.
What treatments are helpful for children?
Over-the-counter pain medicines such as acetaminophen (one brand: Children's Tylenol) and ibuprofen (one brand: Children's Motrin) can help with fever and discomfort. Refer to the package insert for dosing instructions.
Honey helps with cough, but it shouldn't be used in children younger than one year.
Saline nose spray helps a runny or stuffy nose.
An herbal medicine called Pelargonium sidoides (one brand: Umcka Coldcare) may help with cough and can help your child breathe better through the nose.
Menthol rub (one brand: Vick's VapoRub) helps with cough and can help your child breathe better through the nose. But it has a strong smell that some children don't like. It can be used for children two years and older.
What treatments are not helpful for children?
Antibiotics are not helpful because they don't kill viruses. Cold symptoms are almost always caused by viruses.
Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines
Steroid nose sprays (one brand: Flonase)
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 http://familydoctor.org.
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.
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