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7 Ways to Soothe a Sick Toddler When You Can't Give Them Medicine

Photograph by Twenty20

As adults, the second we feel cold symptoms coming on we’re likely to pop open the medicine cabinet and raid the pills and syrups for something to make us feel better. However, when our young children fall ill, many medicines are an absolute no-no. We hate to see our sweet ones suffer—not to mention our own lack of sleep—and many parents feel helpless without a go-to medicine to ease their child’s symptoms. Here are some mom-tested, pediatrician-approved tips and tricks to get you through your kiddo’s next nasty cold, naturally.

1. Prop them Up

Keeping a child sitting up may seem counterintuitive to soothing them to sleep, but angling your little one up with pillows at about a 45-degree angle can aid with nose drainage. Nasal symptoms are usually worsened by lying down, where post-nasal drip can run down the back of the throat or pool in the sinuses. Ditch the irritating cough or stuffy nose by propping up your child with pillows or even stacking books under the head of their mattress. If you can coax them to sleep in this position, it will keep them breathing easy throughout the night.

RELATED: When Are Your Kids Most Contagious?

2. Honey for Your Honey

Ugh! That cough! Will it ever end? If you can’t give your little one medicine, what can be done? Honey may be the answer. This ages-old remedy has been scientifically proven to reduce cough frequency and severity. Two teaspoons about half an hour before bedtime can make everyone’s night more restful. However, do not give honey to babies under twelve months, as there is a risk for infant botulism, a rare but potentially deadly illness. Alternatively, you can also try agave syrup instead.

However, when your little one is ill, let them set the schedule.

3. Saline and Steam

There’s a reason that a hot bath can cure what ails you. Breathing in steam can loosen up a stuffy nose and provide relief for irritated nasal passages. You can always run your child a warm (but not too hot) bath and trap steam in the bathroom by closing the door and keeping the exhaust fan off. A humidifier is a great investment and can seriously improve stuffy nights for you and the kiddos. Another safe option is saline nose spray. Gently tilt your child’s head back and deliver one or two sprays per nostril. Wait a couple of minutes, then use the nasal aspirator (or better yet, the snot sucker,) or have your child blow their nose gently.

4. Heat for Healing

Electric blankets and heating pads simply aren’t safe for child use. Yet, a heating pad can provide sweet relief for a kiddo suffering from body aches. Create your own heating pad with a sock (made of natural fibers) with rice inside. You can warm it up in the microwave to a safe temperature, and the rice retains heat for quite awhile. For extra soothing, add essential oils such as lavender or peppermint to aid with congestion issues.

5. Feed a Fever AND a Cold

While some age-old adages are filled with wisdom, others are not so smart. The old expression “feed a fever, starve a cold” does more harm than good. Your child needs as many nutritious calories as she can get, especially if she’s under the weather. The good news is that the rumors about chicken soup are true — it really does help alleviate symptoms. So if your little one is a chicken fan, this is probably one of your best options.

6. Fluids, Fluids, Fluids!

Another reason to give your sweet one chicken soup is that it contains liquid to keep them hydrated. One of the biggest factors that prolongs and worsens colds is dehydration, and it's one of the more dangerous side effects of being sick. Keep pushing the fluids by having a sippy cup handy at all times and reminding your child to drink. Another way to sneak fluids in is to offer your child all-natural or sugar-free fruit popsicles. Bonus! It soothes sore throats.

RELATED: 5 Signs Your Kid is Dehydrated

7. Rest and TLC

Parents are often reminded of the importance of routine in a child’s life (sometimes it feels like we’re beaten over the head with it!) However, when your little one is ill, let them set the schedule. Not nap time yet? That’s OK, she needs her rest. Get your cuddles on! Touch has been proven to lessen anxiety and decrease the time needed to recover from injury and illness.

Remember to follow the doctor’s orders regarding medication usage, and to seek medical attention if symptoms persist or get worse. It might be difficult caring for your little one when you feel like you can’t do anything to help without medication, but this list will give you a few things to try.

Get well soon!

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