How to Deal with Illness When Your Child has a Cold

By Robin Forslund

September 9, 2019

The leaves are changing, the mornings are cooler and your little ones are headed back to daycare/school. Which means sniffles and coughs are not far behind. The stress of a new environment, being exposed to so many new people and their need to touch everything increases the possibility of our children becoming sick. Don’t worry, I have put together some great tips to help you prevent colds and how to deal with them when they inevitably happen.

Preventing A Cold In Your Child

Prevention is the best way to avoid illness and it all starts at home. You can teach even the youngest child the importance of washing their hands. Make hand washing fun, sing a song or use fun colored/scented hand soap. Teach them to wash their hands after going to the bathroom or blowing their nose and before eating and drinking. 

Some other ways to prevent your child from catching a cold are:

“Cough Pocket”

I have taught my girls to cough or sneeze into the crook of their elbow. We call it their “cough pocket”. The “cough pocket” limits the spread of germs to their hands. 

No sharing

We are always teaching our children to share but we should teach them that sharing stops at food and drinks. Teach your child they should only drink from their own water bottle/drink and eat their own snacks. 


Kids pick their nose and sometimes, GASP, eat it! I know, it’s totally gross, but it happens. Pack an individual pack of Kleenex in your child’s backpack for them to keep in their desk or tuck a few in their pockets. This is the most you can do to hopefully stave off booger munching. 


Children who are tired and run down can not effectively fight off illness. Make sure your child is getting the sleep they need. Children aged 1-3 years need 13-14 hours of total sleep a day. Children older than 3 years old need 10-12 hours of sleep.

Wash those hands, I know I already said this, but it really is the MOST effective way to prevent illness!

How To Prevent Your Baby From Getting Sick

What about babies? Babies under a year old have limited mobility so it is much easier to control their environment. Try to reduce their exposure to sick people. Avoid hospitals and crowded spaces during cold and flu season. Ask others not to kiss your baby, or touch their face and hands. If you or other family members are ill, limit contact with your baby, wash your hands often and try not to breath, sneeze or cough near their face. 

Too Late, My Child Is Sick

Children catch an average of 5-8 colds a year! If this is your child’s first time going to daycare/school expect even more than that. Sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, fever and cough are all signs that your little one has caught a cold. The majority of colds are viral, antibiotics won’t help and they really just require time to allow the immune system to fight it off. Most colds will last 3-7 days. Here are some great ways to keep your little one as comfortable as possible during that time:

  • Use a humidifier. Humidified air helps loosen secretions and can help your child breath better. Use a cool humidifier in their room or sit with your child in the bathroom while you run a hot shower. Warm or hot humidifiers are a burn risk and it is not advised to use them in a child’s room.


  • For babies or children who aren’t able to blow their nose yet you can use a nasal aspirator to suck out their secretions/snot. It sounds gross but the improvement in your little one’s breathing is SO worth it. 


  • If your little one is achy or has a fever you can treat them with acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin). Always follow the dosing recommendations on the bottle and keep track of the time, your child’s temperature, the medication given and the dose given. This will help to prevent any mistakes when you are tired and it provides you with a record to take in if you need to see your pediatrician. (I have included a free printable Medication Tracking Sheet in the Sick Bin section). 


  • Freezies, popsicles and Halls Cough and Sore Throat Pops are great for soothing sore throats. I also like Halls Vitamin C Pops to give them a little extra boost of Vitamin C.


  • Runny noses are a constant with most colds. Be prepared with Kleenex and a garbage to collect used Kleenex. I also really like the Boogie Wipes for children. They are saline infused and are less harsh on their little noses. 


  • Elevating your child’s head can help with excess nasal secretions that can trigger coughing. For older children (at least 1 year and older) an extra pillow under their head will help. For children younger than a year old it is not considered safe to use any positioners or pillows in the crib. Holding them upright on your chest can be helpful.


  • I like to use Vicks Soothing Aroma Ointment Baby Rub on my little ones’ feet. It is not recommended for use in babies under 3 months and to be safe I would consult your pediatrician for children under 2 years old. 


  • Increase fluids. Try and increase fluids by offering water, juice, popsicles, and extra breastfeeding for babies.


  • Being sick is no fun. Having some favorite movies, new coloring books or puzzles on hand to help pass the time can be really helpful. Babies will need lots of extra snuggles when they are sick. This is the perfect time for baby wearing and days spent snuggling on the couch.

Be Prepared With a Sick Bin

I keep two bins stocked with everything I need when illness strikes. These have been my saviour when it is the middle of the night and someone has a fever, cough or starts throwing up. I have one for Cough & Cold and another one for Stomach Flu. I keep them on the top shelf of our linen closet, conveniently located outside my children’s rooms but out of their curious reach. My Cough & Cold Bin is stocked with a Braun No Touch thermometer, hydraSense Nasal Aspirator, Boogie Wipes, Baby Vicks, Halls Kids Pops, Tylenol and Advil. I also keep a few copies of my Medication Tracking Sheet in each. I have linked all the items I stock in my Cough & Cold Bin in case you want to build your own. 

Print your own Medication Tracking Sheet here.




  1.  Honeywell Cool Mist Humidifier 
  2. Braun No Touch & Forehead Thermometer 
  3. hydraSense Nasal Aspirator
  4. Boogie Wipes
  5.  Vicks BabyRub 
  6.  Halls Kids Cough and Sore Throat Pops 
  7.  Infant Tylenol 
  8.  Infant Advil 

When To Seek Medical Attention

These are signs that your child requires medical attention. They need to see their doctor or present to an Emergency Room right away if they have any of the following warning signs: 


  • They are breathing very fast, shallow or their lips are turning blue
  • They are very tired and you are having trouble waking them up
  • They are peeing very little, their mouth is dry, or they do not produce tears when crying (These are indications of dehydration)
  • They have had a fever for 5 days
  • They have a stiff or painful neck
  • You are concerned. You know your child best and if you are worried or something doesn’t seem right, go in


Sleep And Illness

Illness can cause extra night wakeups for babies and children. If your child is sick don’t wait, go to them right away and offer cuddles, medicine or a drink of water. If you are worried and want to be close to them you can sleep on their floor or put them in a pack n’ play beside your bed. Try and preserve them sleeping in their own space as much as you can. If your little one was previously a good sleeper they should go back to their regular routine once the illness is over. If you have any questions or need assistance feel free to reach out to me here , I’d love to chat with you! 

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