Kids' Colds & Flus - Medicines To Use & Not Use

Written by: Jasmine Jafferrali

A recent study in the peer-reviewed journal Pediatrics found that when asked, 80% of parents would like to talk about the use of alternative medicine.  Kids alternative medicine is not discussed enough by doctors. Parents are already seeking information from the internet, friends and alternative medicine practices and putting them to use. 

While cough and cold medicines were not approved for use with kids under the age of 2 and cold medicines are not recommended for kids under the age of 6, there are now a few optional items you can use for your child if over the age of one.  Here are a few friendly “alternative” solutions you can use that will help your ailing child:

Ear Infections:

  • Use This:  Similasin for Ear Infections and warm towel, not a heating pad.  A heating pad is actually not the best thing for our bodies to use, so gently heat up a towel in the oven and use on the ear to ease discomfort and pain.  If the Similasin drops don’t work within two days, then go ahead and use with the antibiotics.  Yes, you can use both together too if it makes you feel better.  (They also make drops for pink eye) and can be purchased at Whole Foods Market.
  • Try That:  Chiropractic adjustments.  Actually when my kids get sick, the first place I take them is to see my chiropractor.  "Chiropractic mobilizes drainage of the ear in children, and if they can continue to drain without a buildup of fluid and subsequent infection, they build up their ownantibodies and recover more quickly," according to the American Chiropractic Association
  • Question:  The use of antibiotics to treat the ear infection.  Up to 75% of the time, an antibiotic is not needed since most ear infections are viral and will clear up on its own within 3 days.  If it is a chronic ear infection, question the possibility of a dairy allergy, since chronic ear infections and dairy intolerances are often linked.

Mild Coughs to Bronchitis:

  • Use This:  Zarbees for coughs.  Whenever I was sick, my dad heated up a spoonful of honey over the stove.  He was onto something back then.  Studies do show honey has anti-bacterial properties that can line and soothe the throat.  Zarbee’s uses buckwheat honey, which is the exact honey to be used when we are sick.  The nighttime syrup and tea packets are also great too. 
  • Not That:  Robitussin has quite a few questionable ingredients while Hyland’s cough syrup has a few questionable preservatives.  If you only had to choose one or the other, go for Hyland’s or buy some Buckwheat honey. 

Dry Air:

  • Use This:  Cool Steam Humidifer.  Germs bread in warm, moist environments, a cool steam helps to keep things cool and moist in the air.  Be sure to crack the window open in the morning as mold likes to breed if air does not circulate.  Yes, even in cold days in Chicago, cracking the window can help get those germs out.  Try this cool mist humidifier that has the option to add essential oils without damaging your humidifier. 
  • Not That:  Warm mist humidifiers, see above for why you don’t want to use them


  • Use This:  Homemade Pedialyte recipe.  It is more economical and will last longer in the fridge.  Plus there is no added sugars like sucralose or food dyes
  • Not That:  Pedialyte, it often goes bad within 24 hours after opening, it is a lot of money to pour down the drain.  Also, beware of giving orange juice, despite its Vitamin C content, orange juice can actually irriatate a throat that is sore from coughing

Upper Respiratory Infections, Colds and Flu’s:

  • Use This:  Essential Oils.  They are part of nature’s natural antibacterial and antiviral way to help keep germs at bay.  Be sure they are therapuetical  grade, there is a lot of diluted ones on the market. Eucalyptus is great for opening up sinuses and pores while peppermint is great to ease nausea.  We like this blend by Aromadina and stick it in our humidifier and baths.
  • Not That:  Vicks on the feet or chest.  The skin is the largest organ in the body and needs to breathe and help rid the toxins in the body from the cold or flu.  Vick’s uses petroleum oil which is basically derived from gasoline.  It can actually clog pores preventing the skin to let the germs out. 

Sore Throat:

  • Use This:  If you child is old enough and can handle it, gargle with warm salt water or water  with Apple Cider Vinegar, using one teaspoon of salt or ACV to one cup of water.  Otherwise try using Traditional Medicines Sore Throat Tea with fresh squeezed lemon and raw honey which is safe for kids
  • Not That:  Mucinex, Chloraseptic, Tylenol Sore Throat, if you are consistent with gargling with the above solution, it should clear up within one day without the harmful ingredients or preservatives. 

Disinfect the House:

  • Use This:  Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap.  This is the cleaner of all trades using a combination of carrier oils and essential oils without all the harsh smelling chemicals.  You can use different scents for different effects like the Peppermint or Eucalyptus scented one. This can be found at Target or Whole Foods.
  • Not That:  Lysol or Chlorox.  Using harsh chemicals in both products can be more damaging to the upper respiratory system by polluting the indoor air.  This is especially true when we don’t open our windows in the colder months to let the air circulate and it is hard when a family member is sick or for a child that suffers from environmental allergies or asthma.  Local, non-profit organization, Healthy Schools Campaign actually offers a greener cleaning guide that may be helpful to use in the homes too.
  • Also, when you clean the sheets, be sure to throw in all of the stuffed animals in the dryer on high for 10-15 minutes to kill any other germs or dust mites that may be lurking.  This is great for kids who have allergies or asthma. 

Other Tips: 

  • Make your own chicken soup and if time permits add the chicken bones like our great grandparents did back in the day.  You can buy from a carton, but don’t buy from a can.
  • No sugar! Sugar suppresses the immune system, so watch those added sugars and “sugar-free” options in foods, medicines and drinks
  • Wash your hands like a doctor going into surgery, up to the elbows.  Singing ABC’s will be long enough to get those germs off your hands.
  • Plus tips on What to do When the Stomach Flu Strikes!


Disclaimer:  Please have an open discussion with your doctor about any of the mentioned over-the-counter medications.  The statements in this article is not meant to replace any medical advice given by your health care provider.

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photo credit: SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget via photopin cc

Posted on January 15, 2013 at 6:13 PM


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