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How to Manage Colds and Flu

​Make sure your child gets extra rest and fluids. Ask your child’s doctor about treatments for:

Stuffy nose: 

  • Use saltwater (saline) nose drops or spray. For infants, use a rubber suction bulb to suck out the extra drops or spray. 
  • Put a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer in your child’s room. Clean the machine every day.


  • For children ages 1 to 5 years, try half a teaspoon of honey. Do not give honey to babies under one year—it is not safe. 
  • Try one teaspoon of honey for children 6 to 11, and two teaspoons for children 12 or older.
  • Consider cough drops for children 4 and older.


  • Do not give your child aspirin, which has been linked to a rare but serious illness in children. 
  • Up to age 6 months, give only acetaminophen (Tylenol and generic).
  • After 6 months, you can give either acetaminophen or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, and generic).
  • Ask the doctor for the right medicine and dose for your child’s age and size.

Flu Vaccine:

  • Children 6 months or older should get a flu vaccine each year.
  • For younger children, make sure the people around them have the flu vaccine.

Over-the-Counter Cough & Cold Medicines:

  • Do not give these to children under age 4. 
  • Many cold medicines already have acetaminophen in them, so beware of double dosing.

If Antibiotics Are Prescribed:

Make sure children take them as directed, even if they feel better. If antibiotic treatment stops too soon, the infection may get worse or spread in the body. Call the doctor if your child is not getting better with treatment.


This consumer information is part of the Choosing Wisely communications program and has been developed by Consumer Reports in collaboration with AAP and is being provided by with the permission of Consumer Reports.

Last Updated
Copyright © 2012 Consumer Reports. Developed in cooperation with the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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