Coughs and congestion are probably THE MOST common sick kiddo symptoms. Especially in the winter (or fall….or spring…) its hard to miss kiddos who have coughs and runny noses. Some other common symptoms are fevers, ear pain, and tummy troubles (vomiting or diarrhea). Want to brush up on what to do for each of those symptoms and get some tips on knowing when it may be time for a doctor’s appointment? Get started on the Sick Kiddo Boot Camp, delivered right to your inbox!
When should you worry and what can you do to help your little one feel more comfortable?
The tricky thing about coughs and congestion is that there are tons of different things that can cause these symptoms in little ones and a huge range in severity. Like a fever, a cough and congestion are actually signs that our body is doing the right thing to keep us healthy. A cough is a way for our bodies to protect our lungs and respiratory tract from stuff that isn’t supposed to be there. Same with congestion – we produce more mucous to coat our respiratory tract and keep it moist. The problem is that tiny noses get blocked up pretty quickly and make it hard for little ones to breathe.
What to do to make your little one feel better
- Use a cool mist humidifier
- Steam up your bathroom and bring your little one into the steamy room with you
- Use nasal saline spray and suction (I like this one and this one – it might seem gross, but it is THE BEST!)
- Offer plenty of fluids. Think outside the box if your little one doesn’t want to drink. Try popsicles, jello, watermelon, etc. There are even some studies that chicken noodle soup can actually help you recover from a cold faster! Avoid milk if possible because it can increase secretions.
- Offer a small amount of honey ONLY if your little one is OVER 12 MONTHS OLD. Honey helps to coat the throat and soothe soreness. Honey can be dangerous for little ones under a year though.
- Elevate their head for sleeping. You can use some books under a crib mattress or some extra pillows for bigger kiddos.
- Cough and cold medicine is NOT recommended for children under 4 years old. It is generally not very helpful and can have serious side effects. (American Academy of Pediatrics – Cough and cold medicine)
When to call someone
Most of the time, coughs and congestion will go away on their own. But, there are situations when you should give your child’s doctor’s office a call and probably bring your little one in to be seen. (Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles – Decoding baby’s cough)
- Your baby is less than 3 months old
- The cough lasts for more than 10 days without showing any improvement
- You notice that your child is working harder to breathe (for example, breathing faster than normal)
- You hear a whistling sound when your child breathes in or out. (“Wheezing” when you hear a whistle when your child breathes out, “stridor” when you hear a whistle when your child breathes in)
- There is blood after your child coughs
- Your baby or child is eating a lot less or losing weight
If your child is having difficulty breathing, is looking gray or blue, or is showing any other signs of a life threatening emergency, call 911 right away. And if your mama-sense thinks something is up, trust that sense! It certainly can’t hurt to make a phone call.