'Tis the season for the sniffles! And your little one will likely suffer from a cold sometime in their first winter. While it can be tempting to break out the big guns when your little one is suffering, it is important to remember that babies can not handle the same cold remedies that work for us grownups. Many adults do not think twice about treating runny noses and hacking coughs with over-the-counter medicine, but we have to be much more careful with babies.

When Can a Baby Have Cold Medicine?

The National Health Service (NHS) strongly advises against giving over-the-counter cold or cough medicine, including decongestants, to children under the age of 6, unless advised by their healthcare provider. Current evidence even points out that cold and cough medicines do not even help cold symptoms...and may pose health risks for your infant.

Here are cold and cough medicines that you should never give your infant.

Cold Medicines You Should NEVER Give to Your Baby:

1. Over-the-counter zinc nose spray or drops

Zinc spray or drops may damage the nerves in the nose and hurt your baby’s ability to smell.

2. Honey in anything for babies under 1

While honey is believed to have medicinal benefits that help alleviate adult coughs and sore throats, in babies it poses a potentially fatal risk. Honey may contain bacteria that can cause infant botulism...so hold off on giving your little one the sweet stuff until after they turn 1!

3. Vicks VapoRub

Chest rubs can get in the eyes and be VERY irritating. Plus, a 2009 study found it actually increased mucus production and inflammation. For babies and toddlers, that means it may worsen their breathing.

4. Cough and cold medicines for children under 6.

Research shows they do not help little kids much, but they have the potential for serious side effects and overdose.

What Medicine Can I Give My Baby for a Cold?

As mentioned above, over-the-counter medications pose risks to your baby. So what can you give your sniffling sneezing little love bug?

I recommend the following cold remedies for your baby:

  • Nose washers
  • Nose suckers
  • Cool mist humidifiers

An FYI about antibiotics:

The truth is, children do not need antibiotics that often. That is because most childhood infections, like sinusitis, pharyngitis, and bronchitis, are caused by viruses...and antibiotics only treat illnesses caused by bacteria. So not only do antibiotics not work on those ills, they lead to antibiotic resistance in the community, which can harm us all. In fact in 2021, roughly 148 severe antibiotic resistant infections occurred each day in the UK.

On the other hand, getting the flu shot can really protect a child—as well as the rest of the household—from getting slammed with high fever and chills…or worse!

If your baby does get a cold, try these safe, natural remedies instead. Stay healthy!

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.