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It's wintertime, which means children can be more prone to colds.

Frigid weather that comes with the season keeps more people indoors, aiding in the spread of viral infections.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the common cold is the main reason youngsters miss school. It's also a leading reason for doctor visits, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

To ease the runny noses, sneezing, coughing and other symptoms associated with colds, parents and caregivers might turn to over-the-counter cough medicine. But medical professionals say research has shown those medications can be ineffective.

“Most of the time they don't work,” said Dr. Samuel Khairkar, a pediatrician with the Franciscan Physician Network.

Khairkar said that while over-the-counter medications can provide some relief, it will only be temporary.

And there are risks associated with giving this kind of medicine to children.

Cough and cold products often contain more than one ingredient. Using them can increase “the chance of accidental overdose if combined with another product,” the American Academy of Pediatrics says.

There are plenty of natural methods parents can use to help their children get through colds and coughs while reducing the worry of overmedicating children, Khairkar said.

Children should drink plenty of liquids when they have a viral infection. Warmer drinks can help soothe a child's throat.

Glorious Wilson-Reynolds, a pediatric nurse practitioner with LaPorte Physician Network Pediatrics, said methods to help a child get through a viral infection vary by age.

Other methods better for kids' coughs

For those 2 and younger, a cool mist vaporizer or humidifier “is amazing” to help children breathe, she said.

Vapor rubs also ease coughs and aches and pains.

Children 1 and older can take honey to coat their throat and help suppress a cough. She recommends organic honey, which also can help a child's immune system.

Leslie Gillham, of Baum's Natural Foods, agrees honey can be an effective cough treatment; she recommends mixing it with pineapple.

Khairkar said a bulb syringe and nasal spray can clear runny noses.

And as children get older, they can take cough drops, Wilson-Reynolds said.

Gillham said older children can also gargle with salt water. Drinking tea with lemon can be helpful as well.

Those 8 and older can take vitamin C, Wilson-Reynolds said. And a daily multivitamin may prevent coughs and colds, she said.

“Give them extra hugs and cuddles to make them feel better,” she said.

She said it's important for parents and caregivers to understand there isn't a quick remedy for a common cold virus. Symptoms can last one or two weeks.

After the infection is gone, coughs can linger for a couple more weeks, Khairkar said.

He said parents sometimes just need to be reassured that colds will go away with time.

Though not every sniffle or cough necessitates a visit to the doctor, parents can contact their physician if they aren't sure whether the illness requires additional attention.

The FDA also recommends contacting your doctor if the child's illness is getting worse, the cough lasts more than three weeks, or there is persistent ear pain, signs of dehydration, labored breathing, blue lips, a fever in an infant 2 months or younger, or a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or more at any age.

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