Despite your best efforts, sometimes germs slip through. But with the warnings against the use of cold medications for kids under 6 (and little research to show that they even work for older kids), it’s hard to know what to do.
Honey. A new study found that kids who ate honey before bed slept better and had fewer cold and cough symptoms than those who took medication or a placebo. The type of honey was buckwheat, a less-sweet variety, but sweeter ones work, too. Honey coats the throat and contains natural antimicrobial agents. Raw versions have more infection-fighting power, so they may be more effective. A spoonful should do it. One caveat: No honey for children under 1.
Yogurt. Yep, it made the list again. A round of antibiotics kills the bad bacteria that gave your kid her ear infection, but it also wipes out all the good bacteria — those probiotics — in her gut. To avoid the stomach upset and diarrhea that often follow, have her eat plenty of yogurt with active cultures (it should say “contains live, active cultures” on the label), which can replace those good-for-you bugs and keep her from having to run to the loo.
Salt. If your child can gargle — one of those tricky, underappreciated milestones that happens, typically, between ages 4 and 6 — doing so with warm salt water can relieve sore throats and ease coughing, says Dr. Hill. As with the soup, experts aren’t sure why this works. The warmth could be soothing. The salt may shrink swollen tissue. Whatever it is, it’s worth a go. Stir a teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water and have your child gargle a few small sips.
Sugar-free candy. Sucking on lollipops or hard candy can offer tender-throated tots some relief, says Ari Brown, M.D., a pediatrician in Austin, TX, and author of Toddler 411. Sugar-free suckers are best, since too much sugar can actually depress immunity (and amp your kid up before bed!). No-sugar-added popsicles will also briefly numb sore throats. Try this remedy only in kids 4 and over; otherwise the candies are a choking hazard
Don’t save the chicken soup for the sniffles! The latest research shows that it may help prevent colds. One study found that chicken soup improves the function of nasal and bronchial cilia, those tiny “hairs” in the throat and nose that block and flush out germs.
If your child does get sick, soup has also been clinically proven to clear congestion, ease sore throats, calm coughs, and un-stuff noses. No one is entirely sure why it works, but there are likely several factors that work together: The salt in the broth may absorb excess fluid from swollen throat tissues; the protein from the chicken may offer a needed jolt of energy; the nutrients from the veggies may boost the immune system; and the fluids may prevent dehydration. What could be better? How about this: The canned stuff (BPA free, of course) is just as effective as homemade.
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