You can help relieve your child’s symptoms so that he or she feels as well as possible.
Very young children breathe through their nose so it can be difficult for them to feed if their nose is blocked. Often, the nose is blocked with dried mucus.
Saline drops can be used as long as is necessary
You can drip saline solution into their nose to thin the mucus and clean the nose. You can buy saline drops from the chemist without a prescription.
You can also make your own saline drops. Dissolve 1 millilitre salt into 100 ml lukewarm water. This is roughly a pinch of salt. Remember that the water must not be too hot. Drip the solution into the child’s nose using a small plastic syringe, which you can buy from the chemist, or use a cotton wool ball.
Saline drops have roughly the same salt content as body fluids such as blood and lymph. This means saline drops are gentle on the mucous membranes and can be used as often and for as long as needed.
If you are breastfeeding, you can use breast milk in the child’s nose instead of saline drops.
Nasal drops can be used for a limited period
Children can be given a decongestant nasal spray or nasal drops if they have a blocked nose. These reduce the swelling in the nose. There are no nasal sprays or drops that are approved for children under one year – saline drops should be used for these children. Various nasal sprays and drops are approved for different ages. Ask a pharmacist and read the instructions on the packaging carefully.
Decongestant nasal spray or nasal drops should not be used for more than ten days in a row. If used for longer than that, they can instead have the opposite effect and make the child’s nose become congested.
Raise the child’s head
The swelling in the mucous membranes of the nose can be reduced if the child sleeps with his or her head raised. You can try putting an extra pillow under the mattress. You can also put a couple of books under the legs of the bed at the head end. Small children may like to sit in a baby bouncer or a baby carrier.
Water is often just as good as cough medicine
Non-prescription cough medicine tends not to be any help for a cold. The cough is important for the child to be able to bring up mucous and clear the airways. Give your child ordinary water to drink. You can give honey dissolved in warm water to children over one year. Remember that honey can cause dental decay, so brush your child’s teeth. Never give cough medicine to children under two years.
Children with a temperature should drink frequently
You can give the child something to drink to relieve their cough, especially if the child also has a temperature. Children become dehydrated more quickly than adults. They need to drink more than usual, so as not to become dehydrated. Offer water, cordial or juice. A child that has not drunk enough may become tired and out of sorts, and will pass less water than usual. If the child is passing water roughly as often as usual, he or she has had enough to drink.
Sometimes a child with a temperature does not want to eat their normal food. You do not need to worry if the child has a somewhat reduced appetite for a few days. Offer food the child likes, for example, ice cream, cream or porridge.
Medication for pain or a temperature can be given as needed
A temperature is one way the body defends itself against and combats infections. A virus cannot thrive in the body if it becomes too hot so do not treat a temperature in a child if he or she feels all right otherwise.
If the child is upset, will not eat or drink, or has difficulty settling at night, you can give non-prescription temperature-reducing and pain-relieving medication containing paracetamol, for example, Alvedon or Panodil. These can be given from the age of three months, but always seek medical advice before giving medicine to a baby under six months old.
From the age of six months, children may be given pain-killing and temperature-reducing medication containing the active ingredient ibuprofen, such as Ipren or Ibuprofen.
This medicine is found in variety of forms to suit different age groups. Ask at a pharmacy what is suitable for your child. Follow the instructions on the packaging carefully and do not combine different medications.
Avoid certain medications
Children up to the age of 18 years should not take medicines containing acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), for example Treo and Bamyl, unless prescribed by a doctor. There is a risk of the child developing Reye’s syndrome. This is a rare disease that can lead to severe brain damage, among other things.
Also, do not give a child with chicken pox medicines containing ibuprofen or other drugs from the NSAID or COX inhibitor group. If used in connection with chicken pox, these medications can increase the risk of rare but serious infections.