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Close up of a child with a washcloth on her head

Home Remedies for Sick Kids

By Dr. Sara Smith, Suffolk Pediatrics

Whether your child has a bellyache, stuffy nose, headache, or fever, these home remedies are safe and can help them feel better fast. If your child's symptoms worsen, contact your CHKD pediatrician.

For a Fever

  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and drinks lots of fluids.
  • Put a cool, damp washcloth on their forehead.
  • Give your child a lukewarm bath after a fever reducer to help bring their temperature down.
  • Dress them in a light layer of clothing. If they get chills, offer a light blanket.
  • NEVER give your child aspirin for a fever. It has been linked to a potentially fatal condition called Reye Syndrome.

Call your doctor right away if your child:

  • is less than 3 months old and has any fever.
  • is 3-5 months old with a fever of 101 degrees or higher.
  • is 6 months or older with a fever of 102 degrees or higher.
  • has a fever combined with trouble breathing and/or a rash.

For a Sore Throat

  • If your child is 1 year or older, honey and a splash of lemon juice can help naturally soothe a sore throat. Never give honey to a child younger than 1, as it may cause infant botulism.
  • Children 5 years or older can try gargling with salt water. Adding ½ tsp of salt to one cup of warm water should do the trick.
  • A cup of warm tea can be soothing. Peppermint tea works as an expectorant to help break up mucus, and chamomile tea can help stimulate the immune system.
  • Consider adding a cool mist humidifier to your child's room to help moisten the air and relieve pain caused by a sore throat.

For a Runny Nose

  • Have your child blow their nose to clear it.
  • Use a bulb syringe to suction your baby’s nose.

For a Cough

  • Honey and lemon juice also work as a natural suppressant for a cough, but again, do NOT give honey to a child younger than 1.
  • A steam bath, or simply sitting in a steam-filled bathroom with the doors shut, can help loosen nasal and chest congestion and make it easier for a child to expel built-up mucus. Adding a few drops of sage or eucalyptus oil to a steam bath may also help open up the chest and soothe a cough.
  • Use a humidifier to keep the air moist and clear.
  • Vapor rub or balms containing essential oils such as eucalyptus or sage may also help loosen nasal and chest congestion.

For a Headache

  • Tension headaches can be felt as a tight band around the head and are usually brought on by stress or anxiety. Massaging your child's neck and shoulders can help. Increasing magnesium-rich foods in the diet may also help prevent tension and migraine headaches.
  • Sinus headaches are felt around the eyes and cheeks. Try using lavender and eucalyptus oils to relieve congestion. These essential oils should not be used directly on the skin but mixed into a carrier oil.
  • If your child is complaining of pain around the eyes, they may have an eye strain headache from reading or too much screen time. Encourage breaks and make sure they are working with plenty of natural light.
  • Make sure your child is eating well-balanced meals throughout the day to avoid headaches caused by low blood sugar.
  • Make sure your child is drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration headaches.

For a Bellyache

  • Try giving your child chamomile tea. Chamomile tea has anti-inflammatory and sedative properties that help calm an upset tummy.
  • Ginger may also soothe an upset tummy. While there is very little ginger in traditional ginger ale, it can help. A tea made from fresh ginger is even better.
  • Peppermint can also soothe an upset stomach.
  • Applying heat while your child is sitting or lying down may help relieve some of the pain.
  • Serve bland foods. They are less irritating and more easily digested than spicy or greasy foods.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.