Helping Babies Survive a Cold

How to help your kiddo survive a cold. Get mom tips and tricks for what medicine to use and other home remedies to help with colds.

Baby with a cold getting drops

Cold season is upon us! And not only that, travel season is upon us. Those two things combined have a way of bringing out the worst of sicknesses.

When a baby has a cold, they do not sleep as well. They also can be very fussy. So how do you help your baby survive the cold so they can be as happy as possible and hopefully not disrupt sleep?

Helping Your Kiddo with a Cold

If your baby is the only child, it is pretty easy to avoid sickness (though it still happens).

If you have other children, however, it seems winter life is just one cold after another. At least around here in our cold, snowy climate. Here are a couple of things I recommend for making your colds easier.

  • Use a humidifier. This will help prevent the cold from becoming a bigger issue.
  • Another obvious (though it didn’t occur to me with my first) suctioning of the nose. This is good to do before naptime and bedtime for sure.
  • A propped up crib mattress. They sell wedges you can prop the mattress up with in many places. I got one from Babies R Us for Kaitlyn because of her reflux. We just slid it under one end of the mattress. If your baby is small, they also sell wedges the baby sleeps on, but I found that makes the baby really hot. This is a good idea in theory, but in practice your baby will likely slide down the incline. But maybe not. It is worth a shot. For toddlers, you can see if he will sleep on a pillow. You might have to go in after he has fallen asleep and place it under his head.
  • My favorite–Vics Baby Rub. It is by the Vics stuff and has a pink lid. You rub it on the chest and really works. I love it.

I recently posted on the Facebook page a question for readers. Essentially the question was, “How do you help your baby/child with a cold?”Here is the advice given.

Vicks on Feet

When your child has a cough, putting Vicks Vaporub on the bottom of the feet helps them to stop coughing so they can sleep. You apply to the bottom of feet and cover with socks (just to keep it all contained). We use Vicks Baby Rub on the little ones.

This sounds like an old wives tale sort of thing. I have known about this since Brayden was a baby; it is easily the most common advice given from mom to mom for sicknesses. Even moms who haven’t tried it will say, “I haven’t tried it, but I heard…” It sounds crazy, but it works!

And after learning about essential oils, it makes sense that it works now. I always wondered why that is the advice and not “on the chest” like you would think. The feet are the place on your body where things can enter the bloodstream faster than any other point on your body. 

“3 nights with Vicks seems to do the trick and they get over the worst of the cold symptoms.”

Crushed Garlic on Feet

I hadn’t heard of this one before, but one reader said this helps.

Essential oils

When you use essential oils, be sure you use a kind that is safe for administering on children. We use doTERRA Breathe Essential Oil to help with breathing. We also use OnGuard to fight off the bugs and doTerra Lemon Essential Oil for sore throat. Others recommended Eucalyptus  Still others recommended Thieves Essential Oil by Young Living. Another oil recommended was Olbas Oil. Another said:

“Oregano essential oil mixed with coconut oil on her feet for a cough. Takes it away instantly. Then eucalyptus and melaleuca essential oil mixed with coconut oil on her chest and back for runny nose/congestion. It works wonders!”

Temporal Scanner

I love temporal scanners, which take your child’s temperature over something like the forehead rather than under the armpit, up the bottom, or in the mouth. I use Exergen brand and have loved it. Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer MODEL# 2000C


I love baths when I am sick and my kids do too! I find a warm shower followed by a bath really gets those buggers flowing out (nice huh?). You can see that nicely in the picture above. During bath time, things just flow right out, which is nice for clearing things up. Some do a ginger bath, some do a regular bath.

“baths in a steamy bathroom”


Lots of people mentioned pushing lots of fluids. Many mentioned using mostly water instead of milk (milk builds up mucus). 

Nose Sucking

The Bulb Syringe Aspirator is the timeless popular way to go. 

Many, many people recommended the Nosefrida The Snotsucker Nasal Aspirator. I haven’t tried that so it is going on our list!

“Nose Frieda!!! That thing is like magic!”

“the Nosefrida Snotsucker (works so much better than the blue bulbs)”

Saline Nasal Spray

We use Little Noses Saline Spray/Drops. Saline drops help prevent things from getting hard and crusty in there. 

Boogie Wipes

I have not tried Boogie Wipes but they were recommended several times. Another recommendation was Puffs. We also like the Klenex with lotion in them.


Here are medicines and supplements that readers recommend. Check them out and see if you think it will work for you.

“Ours is way more bothered by the sore throat than the sinus stuff, so Advil is a life saver and seems to be more effective than Tylenol”

“now that he is over 1, we do elderberry and vitamin d supplements to help boost his immune system and cut sick time in about half.”

“we LOVE LOVE Hyland’s Baby Cough syrup. It was invaluable to us at night when he had a bad cough!”

Misc Helps

  • Bone Broth
  • Sun exposure to torso
  • Chamomile 
  • Vicks vapor rub and water in a scentsy
  • Fresh air

Lemon/Honey Drink

These are both ingredients that are well-known for soothing sore throats. I use doTerra Lemon Essential Oil on my kids (including Brinley) when they have a sore throat (I also use it on myself). It is great for the young ones you don’t want to give honey to yet.

“I just wanted to mention that while honey is great for a sore throat it should never be given to babies under 1 year, and some doctors advise against it until 2 years.”

Vicks Vapors Nightlight

Vicks Advanced Soothing Vapors Waterless Vaporizer–I have not tried this. Several readers recommended it.

Johnson and Johnson Vapor Bath Wash

Johnson & Johnson Soothing Vapor Bath–Another one I haven’t tried (I love hearing all of these new ideas!).


When I was pregnant, I noticed a big benefit for me and humidifiers. We live in a dry climate and the humidifier helped significantly when I had a cough. You can’t always see a difference with them, but extra moisture can help keep things moist inside.

A reader said, “Cool mist vaporizors work great with croupy coughs. Warm mist or regular humidifiers with vicks medicayed liquid work well for normal coughs and congestion.”


“I make smoothies a lot for my daughter. When she has a cold, I use coconut water instead of milk to cut down on the dairy. In an effort to up the liquid intake when she’s sick, smoothies are a great way to do that as well as put in a ton of fruits and veggies!”

“green smoothies with lots of kale and fruit for my toddler”

Sleep at Incline

If your child can’t breathe, inclining the mattress can help. I never thought of this until Kaitlyn was born with reflux, then it occurred to me this would work well for colds (though I was obviously not the first one to think of it). A crib wedge is a great way to incline the matress.

Being at an incline is helpful if you can keep the child sleeping on it. 

” extra pillows for bigger kids”

“During a recent cold, I also propped up one end of the crib mattress so he could sleep with his head at a more upright angle. This seemed to cut down on waking because of congestion.”

“I put a pillow UNDER the crib mattress–it elevates the mattress so they can sleep a little better”

Extra Rest

We all know your body recovers with sleep (I think I never saw that so dramatically as I did after childbirth). If your baby or child needs extra time in bed when sick, don’t be afraid to make it happen!

One day when Brinley was sick, before she moved to one nap a day, she went down at 11 AM and slept until 4 PM for one nap. I didn’t wake her because I wanted her to get her sleep. That was the only nap she took that day, but she woke feeling much better.

Lots of Love

Don’t be afraid to give your baby or child extra love and comfort when they are sick. When Brinley first comes down with a cold, she always needs to be held for about 15 minutes in her rocking chair before bed. She won’t fall asleep in my arms, but she will just lay perfectly still and relax. She gets all settled and then is happy to lay in her bed and fall asleep.

” If my guy wakes crying, I’ll hold and rock him until he falls asleep. It provides not just comfort, but the upright position gives the nose a chance to drain and he can breathe more easily. “

Reader Advice

  • Salina said…
    I’ve also heard to put the vicks vapor rub on the baby’s heals then put on socks. It’s said to help coughing. I’ve never done this, but some swear by it- even doctors on Dr. Sears website.
  • Molly Aley said…
    Vikcs Vapor rub is dangerous—-I can’t remember where, but I read a big article on it being dangerous to use on children under two years of age. Wish I could remember where that was, but it was a pretty compelling argument… On sick babies…HOLD hold hold hold and hold some more. Sick babies need lots of cuddling. My advice is to get a good book (for yourself) and read it a lot while holding the baby.  Warmly,Mom of 5 kiddos
  • Jon and Melissa said…
    I do vicks on my kids feet w/ socks. Helps them not cough instantly. Also saline nose drops after you suction snot. I do at every diaper change so every 3-4 hours. Then 2 drops in each nostril.
  • Plowmanators said…
    Melissa, have you every tried Vics Baby Rub on the feet? I wonder if that would work if someone were concerned about using Vics Vapor Rub.It is worth looking into; I would wonder if the danger is in putting in on the chest, or if feet would be dangerous also.
  • jennifer of nunablog said…
    I read an article on the healing powers of breast milk. It suggested putting a few drops of your b. milk into your baby’s eyes or nose (not sure about ears) at the first signs of infection. We know our b.milk has antibodies that work internally on our loved ones’ immune systems – well they work on contact too, killing the nasty germs directly in the nose, etc.

    Jon and Melissa said…
    I agree with the breast milk. When my son got an ear inf. I put breast milk in there to help. Never had to so antibiotics. I have my own 2 antibiotics right on my chest.

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5 thoughts on “Helping Babies Survive a Cold”

  1. I agree! There were many things shared that I never knew existed. I love the things like this that are all gathered together from lots of people.

  2. I bookmarked this back when you posted it knowing that I would use it someday. Well, we made it to March without getting sick, but it has been so helpful now. Thanks for this!Sarah

  3. Which of these can you give to a six month old? Mine currently has lots of congestion in his throat, chest and nose. Thanks!

    • At 6 months, most things should be safe. I am not sure since I don't own everything here, but most medicines for infants are safe at 6 months.


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