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Treating the Common Cold in Children

Nasal stuffiness (congestion) can make your child uncomfortable, especially when lying down to sleep. Babies especially have a hard time with a stuffy nose, since they always try to breathe through their nose. There are things you can do to help reduce the stuffiness and dripping:

  • Saline (salt water) nose drops or nose sprays do not contain any medicine, so they can be used safely at any age to rinse out any mucous from the nose and help keep the nasal passages open and moist.

  • Awarm bath or shower can help loosen congestion. Special bubble baths for "colds and flu" contain oils and fragrances that may help relieve congestion.

  • Abulb syringe can be used for babies, to remove mucus from inside the tip of the nose. Squeeze the bulb end of the syringe and then gently place the tip just inside the nose (not too deep). Slowly loosen your grip on the bulb, so that mucus from the nose will be sucked into the bulb. Some babies scream when you do this, but sucking out the mucus makes it easier for a baby to breathe through their nose. This also keeps mucus from running down the back of the throat where it can cause cough and irritation. It can be especially helpful to do this 20 to 30 minutes before your baby feeds or goes to sleep.

  • Blowing their nose is helpful for children who can do it. Help younger children blow through one nostril while holding the other one shut.

  • Decongestants (pseudoephedrine or Sudafed, for example) taken by mouth may help to treat nasal stuffiness by decreasing swelling of the lining in the nose. They can be used for children over six months, but should always be used carefully because they can make some children "hyper" or fussy. Check with your doctor before giving your child any medication, and be sure to read dosage directions carefully.

  • Antihistamines (diphenhydramine, for example), are also medications taken by mouth that may help decrease nasal stuffiness. They too can be used in children over six months, and can cause drowsiness in some people. Again, you should check with your doctor before giving your child any medication, and dosage directions should be followed carefully.

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