Not many people know that Peter Jackson based his vision of J.R.R. Tolkien’s miserable Gollum after a toddler who was sick with a wicked cold. That’s because it’s totally not true. Still, for half a second, you thought it was plausible. And that speaks to how ugly toddler colds are. It also speaks to how awful it is to have them following you around begging for their “precious” stuffed animal all day.
READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to Flu Season and Kids
Sadly, until the age of 4, there is no over-the-counter cold medication for children. That means you have to find a way to make your grey, hacking, sniveling, whiney toddler a bit more comfortable. Start by untying the elvish rope. Then learn about a few home remedies to help your kid’s cold.
For The Nose
One of the nastiest places to tackle on a toddler during a cold is their grody noses. That’s because they’re not able to blow out the snot and would frankly just rather wipe it on your jeans, thank you very much. The good news is that you can help things dry up, sans heavy drugs.
Saline Solution: A saline solution mist, or drip, can help get the mucus out. That said, it isn’t particularly pleasant for your kid. Tell them what’s going to go down ahead of time and maybe show them on one of their stuffed animals before you come at their nose.
Cool Mist Humidifier: A humid environment helps your kid breath easier. But it’s also the bane of the cold virus. Getting those nasal passages all dewy again will help things immensely. Just be sure to use your best Bane voice and say “Let the games begin!” every time you turn it on.
Nosefrida: This might sound like what people told Frida Kahlo when she asked where her eyebrows met, but it’s not. It’s a device that allows you to suck snot from your child’s nose via a clear plastic hose and it’s exactly as disgusting as it sounds. Helpful. But disgusting.
For The Chest
Getting mucus out of the chest is what accounts for the Gollum-like hacking of a kid cold. To get it loose and out of the lungs, get your kid into a steamed-up bathroom. Yes, this will require a small bathroom and a good long run of seriously hot water in an empty shower, but that’s a small price to pay for easier breathing.
Some recommend clapping your kid gently on the back with cupped palms as you hang out in the steamy room. It could help loosen things up. Or it could just be fun.
For The Throat
All that coughing and mucus can make the throat raw. The key is to to keep it soothed while things progress. Luckily, it’s not that tough.
Honey: The bee-product has been shown by several studies to be as effective as some OTC medication in terms of soothing a sore throat and easing a cough. Half a teaspoon should do the trick. However, this is for kids 1-year and older only due to risks of bacterial infection of botulism.
Fluids: Pushing fluids keeps your kid hydrated. But it also keeps their throat lubricated and soothed to help with scratchiness. You can go with cold or warm drinks here. And don’t worry too much about the sugar in fruit juices during colds. The key is to keep them drinking. You, on the other hand, are doing fine with that on your own
Popsicles: Again, any sugar bans may have to go bye bye for a bit, unless you can find a sugar free alternative your kid likes. Popsicles have a nice numbing coldness for the throat and can aid a little in the hydration too. Also, you should have one with them.
For All Around Comfort
There are some things that just never go out of style. A good chicken soup is one of them. Turns out the healing power isn’t just a folktale. In fact, chicken soup is not only comforting and filling, it’s packed with immune boosting yummies. Too bad the same does not hold true for beer cheddar soup.
If your kid is having a hard time getting to sleep, try to get their head and chest elevated a bit. That way mucus doesn’t just pool in the noggin. Because the end result is them waking up crying, which will make you wake up and cry.
A Note On Fevers
Not every fever needs to be treated. In fact, sometimes the best course of action is to simply keep your kid comfortable and let their body do its thing. The only time you should get really alarmed is a fever of 104, or a fever of 101 that does not resolve after 2 days.
If you do give over the counter pain meds (acetaminophen or ibuprofen only) make sure you are taking all the necessary precautions. That means reading the dosage correctly, timing it right and using the measuring method that came with the product. It also means not measuring in the dark of night when you’re groggy AF and don’t have your glasses on, obvs.
As always, you should never hesitate to call your pediatrician if you’re getting freaked out. Think of them like your Samwise Gamgee, ready to take some of the burden when your Gollum gets a bit much to handle.