Whenever babies fall ill, parents are always quick to run to the medical store. Unfortunately, it has been found that over-the-counter medicines are not very effective for kids below the age of 6 years. But there is no need to worry, as there are plenty of home remedies that work out very well for your little ones. Though this won’t reduce the duration of your baby’s illness (usually any cold or a cough will last for about 10 days), it will help them feel better.

1. Lots of rest

This can be done for kids of all ages.

How this helps:

Your child uses up a lot of his/her energy to fight an infection and this can wear them out. When your child rests, they are healing, which is exactly what they need.

What your baby will need:

1. A comfortable place to rest2. Quiet activities to occupy them with.

2. Quiet activities to occupy them with.

What to do:

Let your child watch their favourite video or listen to some music. Otherwise, bring them some crayons and paper or a colouring book. They don’t have to stay in bed to rest. If your young child finds it hard to rest, help them by cuddling up in bed with some books. Teach him some finger rhymes (like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”) or read them stories.

2. Steam

This can be done on kids of all ages.

How this helps:

Breathing in the moist air helps loosen the mucus in the nasal passages. Adding a warm bath with some steam breathing has the added benefit of relaxing your child.

What you need: 

1. A humidifier or a cool-mist vaporiser.

What to do:

Use a humidifier or a cool-mist vaporiser in your child’s bedroom when he/she is sleeping, resting, or playing in the room.

If it’s not a convenient time for a bath and you don’t have a humidifier, simply turn on the hot water in the tub or shower, close the bathroom door, block any gap under the door with a towel, and sit in the steamy room with your child for about 15 minutes. (Bring with you some entertainment.)

3. Extra fluids

This is a remedy for kids of all ages.

How this helps:

Drinking plenty of fluids prevents dehydration. It thins your child’s nasal secretions and flushes them out.

What you need:1. 

1. Breast milk, formula, water, or other fluids that your child enjoys drinking

What to do:

For babies younger than 12 months, simply breastfeed or bottle-feed them more frequently. This is the best way to keep them well hydrated. For older children, plain water is great, but your child might not find it very appealing. You can also offer fruit smoothies or ice lollies made from 100 percent fruit juice.

Cautions: Stick to breast milk or formula for babies younger than 6 months unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Babies that young don’t need water and too much of fluids could actually be harmful to them.

4. Saline drops and bulb syringes

This can be used on kids of all ages.

How this helps:

When kids are too young to blow their nose well, saline drops or a bulb syringe can be used to clear their nose. Using a bulb syringe works best for young babies, especially if a stuffy nose interferes with breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.

What you need:

1. A rubber bulb syringe

2. Saline (saltwater) solution, either store-bought or homemade

Safety note: Use only store-bought distilled or sterile water, or tap water that you’ve boiled for three to five minutes and cooled until lukewarm. Organisms in untreated tap water can survive in nasal passages and cause serious infection. Also, bacteria can grow in the solution, so don’t keep it for more than 24 hours.

What to do:

1. Tip your child’s head back or lay them on their back with a rolled-up towel supporting their head.

2. Squeeze two or three drops of saline solution into each nostril to thin out and loosen the mucus. Try to keep his/her head still after this for about 30 seconds (lesser for a baby).

3. Squeeze the bulb of the syringe, then gently insert the rubber tip into his/her nostril. Some doctors recommend also gently closing off the other nostril with your finger to get better suction from the bulb syringe.

4. Slowly release the bulb to collect mucus and saline solution.

5. Remove the syringe and squeeze the bulb to expel the mucus into a tissue.

6. Wipe the syringe and repeat with the other nostril.

7. Repeat if necessary.

Don’t do this more than a few times a day or you might irritate the lining. Also, don’t use the saline drops for more than four days in a row because they can dry out his/her nose over time, making things worse.

You can also use the bulb syringe without saline to remove mucus. Squeeze the bulb to force out air, gently insert the tip in his/her nostril, and slowly let the air out of the bulb to draw in mucus. Remove the bulb and squeeze any mucus onto a tissue.

If your baby gets really upset when you use the syringe, try saline drops instead. Squirt a small amount into his/her nose, then gently swipe the lower nostrils with a cotton swab. Be careful not to insert the swab inside your baby’s nostrils.

5. Honey

Only for children above the age of 12 months.

How this helps:

Honey coats and soothes the throat and this helps tame a cough. A few small studies also show that honey can ease coughing and can help children sleep better.

What you need:

1. Honey2. Lemon (optional)

2. Lemon (optional)

How to do it:

Give your child 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of honey. Some people mix honey with hot water and a squeeze of lemon, which adds a little vitamin C. As honey is sticky, brush your child’s teeth after they consume it, especially if you give it to them at bedtime.


Never give honey to a baby younger than 1-year-old. In rare cases, it can cause infant botulism, which is dangerous and sometimes a fatal illness.

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