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Treating a Toddler's Cold

How to help a little one manage symptoms and get better sooner


Winter brings many delightful memories for toddlers and parents -- cute woolen hats and first sled rides, introducing your child to the wonder of hot chocolate and cutting up paper snowflakes. Unfortunately, though, winter also brings days locked inside and a plethora of nasty germs to share among friends, relatives, and playmates. Don't dread and fear those wintertime illnesses, though. Instead, commit to finding fun ways to survive the cold and flu season and arm yourself with these tried-and-true strategies for making your little one feel better.

1. Vaporizer

Vicks Germ Free Steam Vaporizer Humidifier
To help ease cold symptoms, it's best to explore all your non-medicinal options as well. A cool mist vaporizer is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a safer alternative to a warm mist vaporizer . A vaporizer (also known as a a humidifier) can help loosen congestion and ease the pain or discomfort associated with respiratory infections and colds.

When using a humidifier (compare prices), it's important to clean it regularly according to the manufacturer's recommendations. This usually means at least wiping down the humidifier each day with a 10% bleach solution.

2. Pain Releiver

In 2011, the Food and Drug Administrations released a

statement regarding the ineffectiveness of cold medicine for children under two, which included recommendation to be cautious about sing cold medication for children older than two as well. This position has led many pediatricians to recommend that small children only be given standard pain medication to help manage cold symptoms. Specifically, they say you are better sticking with ibuprofen (such as Advil (compare prices) or acetaminophen such as Tylenol (compare prices), both of which can reduce aches and pains that sometimes accompany colds.


3. Steam

Sometimes the cool midst vaporizer just doesn't seem to cut it. This is espeically true if your little one has developed croup and coughing uncontrollably during the night. That's when your best course of action is to take your bundle into the bathroom, close the door and run a steam shower. You might try adding a eucalyptus solution to the tub to help ease your toddlers bronchial passageways.

4. Limiting diet to certain foods

The BRAT diet refers to a long-recommended regiment of only eating bananas (B), rice (R), apples (A), and toast (T) when you have diarrhea or are vomiting. Some doctors report that the BRAT diet isn't really necessary for a child with diarrhea, but if regular food seems to go through or come right back up, you might want to try a restricted diet. The most important thing, though is to keep your child hydrated. If diarrhea or vommotting are extessive, your pediatrician might recommend an elctrolyte replacement drink. In most cases, you can keep your child properly hydrated by offering her clear liquids -- water preferably, If your child isn't holding down water, try ice chips in small doses.

5. Sleep

child Getting Enough Sleep
If only, you might think. A bad cold calls for a no-holds-bar approach to trying to get your toddler to sleep. Because lying flat can aggravate a cold, lying a toddler in the stroller and rocking her back and forth to sleep might be your best bet. Of course, this is not a long-term solution. If your toddler needs help for a nap or a night's sleep for a day or two, a stroller works as a life saver, but be sure not to let it turn int a habit.

6. Look for Other Symptoms and Complications

Toddler Cold
Ken Fisher/Getty Images
It's sometimes hard to tell when a cold or minor virus has turned into croup or an ear infection, so it's important to pay attention to changes in behavior (like pulling on the ears) or changes in the sound of your child's cough (like the seal bark that accompanies croup) or spikes in fever. If things seem to be getting worse rather than better after a few days, call your pediatrician.

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