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Five Natural Alternatives to Children's Cold Medicine Posted: June 8th, 2010

By Jessica Hanley

Jessica Hanley is a writer pursuing a graduate degree in creative writing. Her previous experience includes marketing for the Penguin Young Readers Group and teaching writing to students of all ages. Jessica received a B.A. in English from Stanford University.

In early May, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and McNeil Consumer Healthcare issued a recall of certain over-the-counter cold medicines for infants and children. Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl, and Zyrtec products were included in the recall, which cited manufacturing deficiencies that could affect potency, purity, and overall quality of the products. Commissioner of Food and Drug, Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., told consumers to discontinue use of the recalled products while problems at the facilities are addressed:

"While the potential for serious health problems is remote," Hamburg said, "Americans deserve medications that are safe, effective and of the highest quality. We are investigating the products and facilities associated with this recall and will provide updates as we learn more."

According to the FDA, generic versions of recalled medicine are still safe to use, though cold medicine should not be given to children under 2. Parents should not use adult cold medicine as a substitute for recalled products--it is not meant for children under age 12 and can cause serious harm.

Five Natural Alternatives to Children's Cold Medicine

Although the recall only applies to certain children's cold products, you may still feel wary of using over-the-counter medication to treat your child's cold or allergy symptoms. The following natural cold remedies have been used by moms for years, and the Mayo Clinic agrees they can ease symptoms:

  1. Fluids
  2. Dehydration can worsen cold symptoms by drying out mucous membranes, resulting in a stuffy nose and scratchy throat. Drinking plenty of fluids, like water, juice, or clear broth, can ease symptoms and help mucus pass out of the body. Caffeinated soda and tea should be avoided due to its dehydrating effect.


  3. Saltwater Gargle
  4. Sore throats can be temporarily soothed by gargling warm salt water. Dissolve 1/8 teaspoon of salt into an 8-ounce glass of warm water and gargle for several seconds. This method should only be used by older children, since there is a risk of accidentally swallowing the saltwater.


  5. Saline Nasal Sprays and Drops
  6. Saline nasal solutions can moisten mucous membranes inside the nose and help relieve stuffiness. In infants, it's best to use saline drops in conjunction with a bulb syringe to suction out mucus. Older children may benefit from nasal sprays, which can help safely relieve congestion of the nose and sinuses.


  7. Humidifier
  8. Like drinking fluids and using saline solutions, humidifiers keep nasal membranes moist and prevent the dry environment cold viruses' love. Moisture also helps the cilia--tiny hairs in the nose and sinuses--move mucus out and relieve congestion. Unfortunately, humidifiers can also encourage mold growth, so be sure to change the water in your humidifier daily.


  9. Chicken Soup
  10. Your grandmother was right! Chicken soup really does help cold symptoms. Scientists say that chicken soup aids congestion in two ways--first, it speeds up movement of the mucus out of the nose and sinuses, and second, it acts as an anti-inflammatory.


With the above remedies, lots of rest, and extra hugs, your child can rebound from uncomfortable cold symptoms and be back to his energetic self.