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Kids and Colds – what remedies really work?

Over the past year or so there have been a lot of stories in the news about kids and cold medicine – last year the FDA came out and said cold medicines should not be used by kids under 6. Period. They are actually talking about taking them off store shelves. When I think of all the money I have wasted on over-the-counter cold remedies over the years with my three young children, I shudder.

What’s funny is that I came to the same realization over the past year or so – all of the cold remedies I bought really didn’t seem to change anything as far as my children’s sicknesses. The OTC medicines only serve to suppress the symptoms (and I’m not even sure how effective they are at that – although they did suppress some of my symptoms (of panic) when my daughter would have a coughing attack at 2 am and I felt like I was doing something to help by giving her medicine) – they don’t cure the illness.

So over the past year plus I have actually stopped buying cough medicines – and my kids have some of the loudest barks you’ve heard – they sound like life-long smokers. I’ve learned to sit tight, realize colds usually clear up in a week – at which point if they still have them I make a doctor’s appointment. I fire up the humidifier, increase the liquids, and give them a pain reliever for any mild sore throat or aches and pains. (A good book on the topic is Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child (Avery, $21.95) a parent’s guide to illness using nutritional supplements, herbs, homeopathy, acupressure, diet and conventional medicine.)

Some other natural remedies I use  for my kids’ cold symptoms include:

Honey. Doctors are saying honey can be just as effective as any cough medicine in relieving a cough. No children under one should ever have honey.

Increased liquids. Shoot for water – no sodas or sugary juices. I’ll try a splash of orange juice or cranberry juice mixed with water.

Rest. My older daughter has the hands-down worst cough in the family. Every year come December I would be beside myself when another many-week upper respiratory ailment hit. It felt like it would just never end. I would haul out my arsenal of cough medicines and prescribed albuterol and other inhalers (she was diagnosed with “asthma” for this chronic cough, but I was never quite confident in this assessment). Two years ago I was sick of continuing to treat her this way and decided to keep her home from school for three days until the cough improved. What do you know – it worked.

Decrease dairy and refined sugar. Dairy increases mucus production and sugar depresses the immune system so I will lay off both when the colds and coughs hit.

Apple cider vinegar. I swear by attacking a cold with a concoction of a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, a dash of honey and a glass of water – drink this twice a day until the cold goes away and I swear it significantly decreases the duration of a cold. I am working on bribing my kids to drink this.

What cold remedies do you use for your kids when they are sick?

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Rachael Ray