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Many doctors applauded federal health experts last fall when they advised against the use of over-the-counter cough and cold medications for babies and children younger than 6, leading to recalls of several infant cold medicines. "Too many parents have been misusing these medications for too long," says Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, M.D., a Boston pediatrician and CEO of Pediatrics Now. So, what's the parent of a sick baby to do? Here are some safe alternatives:
Loosen mucus with steam, saline nose spray or breast milk and remove it by suctioning with a bulb syringe, advises Tara Levy, N.D., a naturopathic physician in Oakland, Calif.
Mix two drops of eucalyptus oil into one teaspoon of safflower or olive oil and massage it on your baby's chest or back to relieve congestion, Levy suggests. (Make sure it's completely rubbed in so your baby can't get it on his fingers and then accidentally ingest it by putting his fingers in his mouth.)
Use a humidifier with a clean filter to keep the air in your baby's room moist.
Keep your child hydrated by breastfeeding or bottle-feeding more often. If your baby is 6 months or older, offer him a little water or diluted juice.
Try to be patient. "Colds are caused by viruses and the only cure is time," O'Keeffe says. "A typical virus lasts about seven days.