Newborn Basics

Are There Cold Medicine Alternatives For Babies?

My baby has a cough and congestion, but I've been following the news and know I shouldn't use cold meds. Are there any safe ways to help my baby feel better?

You're talking about the FDA's recommendation that antihistamines and decongestants not be given to children under age two. Pediatrician Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP, says to even avoid giving children cold medicine until age three or four. Luckily, we've got some easy and effective non-medicinal alternatives.

[  ] Make your own steam room. Dress baby in light layers (no blanket), bring her in the bathroom and close the door, and run a hot shower. Sit for 10-15 minutes up to four times a day, and wipe baby's nose or use a bulb syringe afterwards. Remember — never leave baby alone in the bathroom or bring her in the shower.

[  ] Keep baby in an upright or semi-upright position to encourage nasal drainage. You can also put a pillow under the on end of her crib mattress to elevate her head, but never put pillows in the actual crib.

[  ] Use a humidifier to keep the air moist and prevent nasal secretions from drying out. Use filtered or distilled water (tap water can cause particle buildup and create filmy dust), and clean and dry it every day. Stay away from hot water vaporizers, which can scald or burn.

[  ] Give baby lots of fluid to thin nasal secretions and prevent dehydration, especially if baby has diarrhea.

[  ] Clear baby's nose with a bulb syringe. Squeeze the bulb, gently stick the tip in her nostril, then release.

[  ] Ask your doctor about saline nose drops, which can also loosen mucus.

Plus, more from The Bump:

What to Do When Baby Is Sick

Runny or Stuffy Nose in Baby

Baby Coughing

By Jennifer Shu, MD, pediatrician with Children’s Medical Group P.C. in Atlanta and author of Heading Home With Your Newborn (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010)