Originally published in Family Health Magazine.
Your child is coughing, sniffling, and sneezing and you want to help her feel better—fast. To the rescue: these simple, drug-free strategies doctors swear by to help their own children conquer their worst symptoms.
- To unclog a stuffy nose: A congestion-clearing sniff
“Just the other day, my 4-year-old came home from day care with a brutal cold and I knew just what to do,” says Heather Bartos, M.D., an ob-gyn and mother of two in Cross Roads, Texas. “I put 10 drops of eucalyptus oil in a diffuser to break up his congestion. The menthol in eucalyptus opens up nasal passages to help get rid of phlegm and mucus,” she explains. Plus, its antibacterial and antiviral properties work to quash microbes that cause a cold. “If I’m out of eucalyptus oil, I use Vicks VapoRub.” The medicine-cabinet staple also contains menthol and camphor—a natural cough suppressant. “Since it’s solid at room temperature but liquid when heated, it works perfectly in an essential oil warmer.” You can also smear it under your child’s nose or put it on their feet under socks. Says Dr. Bartos, “My kids immediately feel better afterward.”
- To soothe a sore throat: A “fancy fiber” lollipop
“When my children have a sore throat, I get them a special kind of lollipop that contains pectin,” says Anne Negrin, M.D., an ophthalmologist in Purchase, New York, and a mother of two. Pectin is a type of soluble fiber that forms a protective film in the mouth to relieve irritation of the mucous membranes. “It helps the kids almost instantly. It also makes them thirsty, and as far as I’m concerned any cold is made better faster by drinking tons of water,” she says. It’s also easier to get her kids to suck on a pop than a lozenge. “They think it’s a treat,” says Dr. Negrin. (One to try: Lolleez, available at drugstores.)
- To quiet a cough: 2 spoonfuls of this sweetener
“Last winter, my daughter came down with a cough that made it difficult for her to sleep,” says father-of-two Will Bulsiewicz, M.D., a gastroenterologist in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. “I treated her with my go-to before-bed cold remedy: 2 tsp. of honey. By the second night, her cough was gone. “The thick syrup acts as a soothing agent, coating the throat,” he explains. “And the sweet taste encourages salivation, thinning the mucus and reducing the urge to cough.” Plus, it’s easy to get kids to take it. “My daughter loves honey because it tastes so good.” (Note: Children under age 1 shouldn’t consume honey.)