COVID-19 Update

How to Comfort Sick Kids at Home

Kids get sick a lot. And when they are young, it’s even more challenging to comfort them.

“When your child is suffering with a mild viral infection or mild symptoms, it’s best to care for her at home,” says Tracy Nailor, MD, MPH, a Pediatric Urgent Care Physician at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “Keeping your child protected from outside germs can often be better than taking a trip to the pediatrician or sending them to school and daycare, where they may be exposed to other sick children.”

Now more than ever, it’s really important to keep sick kids at home. But it’s not just COVID-19 that parents should keep an eye out for, because it’s also cold and flu season. These are a few simple remedies that Dr. Nailor recommends trying to help ease some common cold symptoms like fevers, coughing and sore throats.

A fever is a sign that your child’s body is fighting off an infection and working to get well. In addition to using children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help bring her temperature down, you can draw your child a lukewarm bath to help soothe her.

If your little one is too small to sit in a tub, dip washcloths in lukewarm water, wring out any excess water, and apply it to your child’s chest, tummy, neck and underarms. Remove or change the washcloths as soon as they start to cool off, repeating the process for no longer than 20 minutes. Dry your baby and keep her covered with a light blanket.

Sometimes, just a lukewarm bath can also make your child comfortable enough that you don’t have to immediately treat her with fever-reducing medicine, as giving these medications for temperatures less than 100.4°F will not deter the illness.

Remember: Fever itself is not a disease. Rather, it is a sign of an underlying condition that your child’s body is trying to fight off. Keeping your child comfortable is the key.

Symptoms of a sore throat may include a painful throat, fever, swollen glands in the neck, bad breath, scratchiness in the throat and redness in the back of the mouth.

Helpful ways to comfort your kid’s sore throat or cough at home

  • Sleep at an incline. Parents know how awful a persistent cough or sore throat can be, especially during the night. Many times, nighttime coughing can be caused by postnasal drip or drainage. Sleeping slightly inclined can help older kids and teens. For older children, this can be accomplished with an extra pillow. Infants, however, should be on their backs, flat and without anything in their crib, until 12 months of age in order for them to sleep safely.
  • Keep cold liquids at the bedside. As with any illness, staying hydrated is important. Liquids can also help ease some symptoms like a sore throat. For older kids or toddlers, consider putting a non-spill sippy cup of ice water at their bedside to help ease middle-of-the-night coughing.
  • Take some honey. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), honey can help relieve a sore throat or coughing. They suggest mixing 2 tablespoons of honey with a warm glass of water or tea and drinking as needed. Honey can also be taken by itself, without mixing in a liquid, to calm a cough. For children older than 1 year, you can give 1 teaspoon of honey. For older children (teens and young adults) you can go up to 1 tablespoon. This remedy is also helpful if the sore throat is accompanied by a cough.
    • Note: Honey should not be given to infants under 1 year old. It can carry bacteria, such as Clostridium botulinum, that can be especially dangerous for babies.
  • Control pain with medication. Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can also be used to help control the pain of a sore throat.
    • Note: Aspirin should not be given to children due to possible complications.

Stuffy and runny noses are other common cold symptoms that frequently affect little ones throughout the year.

Helpful ways to soothe a runny nose at home

  • Try saline and a syringe. Keeping the nasal passages clear can help kids and babies sleep more soundly and feel better. If your baby is too young to blow her nose, use a saline spray and a syringe or nasal aspirator to get mucus out of the nose.
  • Use a cold vapor humidifier. Humidifiers can be a great way to add moisture to air passages and help relieve stuffy noses. Make sure you follow the directions on the humidifier label and clean it as directed. Cold vapor humidifiers are a great addition to your list of at-home remedies.

Hydration is always important, especially when your child is sick. Keep in mind that if your child is sick, she often won’t have the same appetite that she typically does.

“Parents are often worried when their child is not eating as much as usual while they are sick, but this is very common.” Dr. Nailor says. “I recommend providing nutritious snacks that may be readily available throughout the day, without the expectation of feeding your child a full meal until she is healthy again.”

Remember: Parents know best

As parents, we know you want to do everything you can to help make sure your children are happy and healthy, and this is especially important when your little one isn’t feeling well. And there’s certainly a risk of exposing kids to other germs if you decide to take them to see the pediatrician. So, it’s important to try and help your child feel better at home if you can by first trying a few of these simple remedies. But always trust your gut.

Contact your pediatrician with any concerns about your child’s health. And most importantly, keep your child home if she is showing any signs of illness.

Where you take them matters

Sometimes your child needs access to care on weekends and holidays too. Our Urgent Care Center physicians are here for you—plus, they’re specially trained to diagnose and treat children’s and teens’ common illnesses and injuries.

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