Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 2012;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

Continue Reading

More in AFP

More in PubMed

Copyright © 2012 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See permissions for copyright questions and/or permission requests.