Helping Your Sick Child Feel Better at Home

Not every ailment calls for a trip to the pediatrician. When your kid is under the weather but not sick enough to go to the doctor, how can you help her feel better? These are a few simple remedies parents can provide at home that can help with problems from colds to colic.

Humidifiers and vaporizers for cough and congestion

If your child is up all night with a cough or chest congestion, consider using a humidifier or vaporizer. Humidifiers and vaporizers add moisture to the air, easing congestion by encouraging the breakup of mucus in the chest.

However, children with allergies or asthma should not use humidifiers or vaporizers. Added humidity in the air can actually make their symptoms worse, especially if the humidifier hasn’t been cleaned or disinfected properly. An improperly sanitized humidifier can send mold and bacteria into the air, triggering coughing, sneezing and breathing trouble.

Baths and washcloths for fever

A fever is a sign that your child’s body is fighting off an infection and working to get well. In addition to using children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help bring her temperature down, you can also place your child into a lukewarm bath.

If your little one is too small to sit in a tub, dip washcloths in lukewarm water, wring out any excess and apply to your child’s chest, tummy, neck and underarms. Remove or change the washcloths as soon as they start to cool off, repeating the process for no longer than 20 minutes. Dry your baby and keep her covered with a light blanket.

While this won’t treat the underlying cause of the fever, it can help to make your child feel more comfortable.

Chamomile tea for colic

Chamomile tea is a common grown-up remedy for relaxation, but some research, including a 2007 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), has shown that it may also help soothe a colicky baby. It’s believed that colic—that heavy, constant screaming or crying that can occur in an otherwise healthy infant —could be triggered by upset stomach, milk or lactose allergy, or other gastrointestinal distress. Chamomile tea may help to calm that distress, as well as soothe a fitful, restless baby and help encourage sleep.

To give your little one chamomile tea, steep a bag in four ounces of warm water for one to five minutes. Let it cool and put one to two ounces in a bottle. It’s recommended that you not exceed four ounces over the course of a day.

Note: A very small percentage of infants may have an allergy or sensitivity to chamomile. Check with your pediatrician before trying this remedy, and if a rash develops, discontinue use.

This content has been clinically reviewed by Tracy Nailor, MD, MPH and Deirdre Stewart, MD.

This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.