How I (A Pediatric Nurse) Treat My Kids When They Are Sick

Kids get sick a lot. Their immune systems aren't as strong as adults' and they haven't been exposed to the germs that grown-ups have, so they aren't able to fight them off as easily. 

Being a parent is hard too. Seeing your child sick and not knowing what to do can be a frightening and frustrating experience. You likely look for advice from friends and family - which may be good or bad. You know you don't need to take your child to the doctor every time they get a runny nose but sometimes it can be difficult to decide when you do need to go

I have been a pediatric nurse and a mom for well over a decade and have learned a thing or two about taking care of sick kids. While these recommendations aren't right for every child, the goal is to give you some guidance about how to take care of your sick kids and cut down on some of the confusion. 

As always, if you have serious concerns about your child's health, contact his health care provider for specific advice. 

In this article, we'll focus on toddlers and school age kids. We'll cover infants and babies in another piece. 


Boogie Mist - a saline nasal spray made just for kids.. Little Busy Bodies, Inc

Saline spray and nasal rinses are my hands down favorite treatment option when my kids have stuffy noses or any kind of nasal congestion. Clearing out those sinuses makes them feel so much better and it can make blowing the nose easier. Getting them to spray saline in their nose may not be the easiest task, but it is worth the trouble to make them feel better. 

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Cool Mist Humidifier

Humidifier. Ivary/Getty Images

There are many types of humidifiers out there but with kids, cool mist is the best choice. They require maintenance and proper cleaning to avoid spreading more germs into the air, but they are the safest and most effective option for young children. 

Running a humidifier when your child is sleeping at night can work wonders in helping her sleep and breathe more easily and comfortably. 

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Mother blowing daughter's nose with tissue in the kitchen. Bernhard Lang/The Image Bank/Getty Images

In my opinion, for those red raw noses, nothing beats Aquaphor. It is gentle on the skin and provides a barrier to help the skin heal after being rubbed with tissues. It may not be the cheapest product out there, but it's the best.  

Fever Reducers/Pain Relievers

Which medications can your child take?. Tetra Images/Getty Images

When your child is sick, she probably doesn't feel very good. Although many children will be up playing even when they have an illness (this is a good sign and usually shouldn't be discouraged), she probably also has periods where she is laying on the couch. 

If she is running a fever and isn't very active, using a fever reducer such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) can make a big difference. Remember though, you want to treat the child, not the number. Fevers aren't dangerous, we just use medication to help our kids feel better. 

These same meds can be used if your little one is in pain - even if there is no fever.

Children should never be given aspirin or products that contain aspirin unless specifically directed by their doctor. 


A spoonful of honey can help a sore throat or cough.. Juan Silva/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images

If your child has a cough or sore throat - and is over the age of 12 months - honey is a great alternative to ineffective cold medications. Studies have shown that it is more effective at controlling coughs in kids than over the counter cough medications. It also doesn't have side effects like they do. 

It's great for sore throats because it coats the throat and relieves pain. And what kid doesn't want to eat a spoonful of honey?

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