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Cold and Flu Guide: The Next Generation

MDI Digital

Sick-Kid Cures

Serve up some zinc. There's new strong evidence that zinc really can help reduce the severity and duration of colds—if started in the first 24 hours of symptoms. Plus: Kids taking zinc supplements for at least five months get fewer colds overall and miss fewer days of school. (Give your child zinc in syrup form—the lozenges taste worse and may cause nausea.)

Turn on the water works. Topical saline is your first go-to liquid. With babies, administer saline nose drops with a bulb syringe. For older kids, use a saline spray or (in our family) Neti pot—a teapot-like container. The benefit? Evidence of decreased daycare or school absence, modest improvement of symptoms, decreased return of symptoms, and decreased need for other meds. Warm, humidified air has also been shown to have some benefit—just be sure to keep the device out of reach.

Honey trumps cough medicine. To some extent coughing is helpful, protecting the lungs and ejecting some of the virus from the body. But enough is enough, especially when it's keeping the whole family up at night. A spoonful of honey is one of the most effective cough remedies for kids over age 1. I suggest 1/2 tsp for kids ages 1 to 6, and 1 tsp for kids ages 6 to 12. The darker the honey, the better.

Warm things up. Fevers help kids fight colds by activating the immune system. Not all kids with colds get a fever, however, so you might consider wrapping yours up in some warm blankets or holding him close to increase his body temperature just a bit. Raising the room temperature, or positioning your child near a cozy fire (with proper safety precautions, of course), may also help.

Be a couch potato. There's a reason you feel wiped out with a cold: Your body needs rest. So let your child chill on the couch and indulge in some extra screen time. If he's having trouble sleeping at night, that's your cue to treat even helpful symptoms, such as fevers and coughs.