Dealing With Congestion~ Helping Your Child Through Cold and Flu Season

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Back in November my daughter's cardiologist warned us of the cold season, letting us know that little ones with heart conditions may have an especially difficult time with viruses.  Since then, my two year old has had more problems than she has.  I've seen moms on Facebook asking for advice on how to help their toddlers with severe congestion.  With a few more months of the season to make it through, I thought I would share what seems to help my little ones.  NOTE~ {I feel like a commercial, but I have to say it in this day.}  I am not a medical professional.  Please talk to your child's doctor if your child is having trouble.  I am just sharing what has helped in my experiences.

Our nine month old {who has Down syndrome} has had issues with congestion since she was two weeks old.  One of the first bits of advice I read from another mom who has a child with Ds said that many will use saline drops and nasal aspiration daily.  Whoa!  I was not really certain of this and certainly not a fan of the idea of daily nasal aspiration.  My doctor agreed and thought it may dry her nose out too much.  Thankfully after Dianna's heart surgery at 4 months of age, her congestion was much less, I would say gone except with colds {some suggested it was a milk allergy but it wasn't, just heart related}.  I learned that her congestion was actually a side effect of her heart working harder.  But I did do some things that helped and have helped her and her siblings when severe congestion hits.

Dealing With Congestion
*Sleep Inclined
It isn't always easy to get a child, let alone an infant, to sleep with their head propped.  I use lots of pillows and stuffed animals around my toddler so if he moves off his pillow, he moves onto his teddy bear and keeps his head up.  When Dianna was just a few weeks old, she began sleeping the night in her car seat.  After she had a bad reflux and aspiration episode, we got a wedge.  Thankfully I didn't get rid of her wedge when she grew out of her reflux because I use it whenever she has a cold.  There are a few to choose from but I bought hers from  You cannot see it too well in the picture below, but it holds the baby securely with two velcro straps, one around the waist and one which comes up between the legs and fastens on both sides.

*Saline Drops and Nasal Aspiration
I know, I said I am not a fan.  Nonetheless, sometimes I do use saline drops and a nasal aspirator when my child has severe nasal congestion.  A few things to note.  If you use over the counter drops, replace the bottle after each sickness, and don't share bottles of nasal drops.  You don't want to spread infections and you don't want to reinfect.  I have made my own salt water drops using sterilized water and apply them with a pipette but the over the counter ones are more convenient and you don't have to worry about bacteria in the water you use.  Which leads me to the nasal aspirator.  It's the perfect home for breeding bacteria {Just look at this picture}.  I wash mine and boil it regularly to clean.  A friend has suggested the Nosefrida instead.

*Essential Oils
It may sound cuckoo to some, but using essential oils has been great for Dianna.  Many of you are probably familiar with Vics vapor rub.  Essential oils is similar but very gentle.  I purchase oils from Heritage Essential Oils.  They offer a combination of oils called Respiratory Relief, but I prefer to use rosemary oil instead.  I put a dab behind the ears and another dab on the back and one on the chest whenever I change a diaper of the congested little one.  I did this with Dianna for the four months before her surgery and I believed it really helped keep her congestion loose.

Another oil I like to use from them is Ancient Healing.  It's a combination of oils that supposedly helps boost the immune system.  I started using it on Dianna in the fall.  She has done better than her big brother with all the sickness that has been through our house.  I put two dabs on each foot and rub it in.  I've started using this on my boys in the last week since they have been having the most trouble with colds this year.

Since many modern drugs are derived from herbs and naturally occurring ingredients, I consider oils to be like medicines and mention the use of them to my daughter's doctors in case there could possibly be any interaction or harmful side effects.

*Benadryl {Again, I'm not a doctor so talk to your child's doctor about using medicines.}
When Dianna went for her 6 month check~up, her pediatrician suggested I give her some Benadryl to help dry up her congestion from the cold she had at the time.  I checked with her cardiologist to make certain it was okay for her to have with her heart condition and with her heart medicine.  He said it was fine.  I actually didn't give it to her then but I have a couple of times since.  I especially find it helpful when my kids have a 'barking' cough.  It helps to dry up drainage that irritates their throats and also helps open up tight airways.  {Here is a link that has a dosage chart.}

*A Few Old Time Remedies
Apply Vaseline or oil to upper lip and under nostrils to reduce dryness {this is especially helpful after aspirations}.  One of the things I hated when I was younger, and still do, is trying to fall asleep with a super dry nose.  It always seemed to make my throat sore.

Give your child a nice, warm bath.  It washes away germs, helps loosen mucous and is relaxing.  If you feel your child {or yourself} doesn't have the energy for a bath, use a warm, damp washcloth on the face and neck, particularly the nose.  Use a clean washcloth to massage the inner corners of the eyes if they are congested.

When one of my older children was about three, her pediatrician recommended that I alternate exposing her to warm, moist air with cold, dry air.  I would sit in the bathroom with her on my lap while the shower was running full blast on hot, then I would spend a few minutes with her face in the freezer.  If it was winter, we would just step out onto the front porch wrapped up in blankets.  This was really helpful with the barking coughs at night.

Please share any of the things you have done that you have found particularly helpful getting through cold and flu season with your little ones.

Not the clearest picture of the wedge Dianna sleeps on, but I needed to include a picture even if it is from 5 months ago. Isn't she cute!


  1. Seeing little kids suffering from flu or any illness is quite hard. Parents usually wished to just get the illness instead of their little ones.
    The most important thing a parent should do aside from giving them proper medication is to let them feel that they're safe in your arms and letting them feel they're loved and that they will get better later on. Always assure them that will get better.

    1. Quite right Lea. Especially if they look like they're in pain or they are crying all the time and you have no idea why or how to soothe them..


Catching my breath. Be back ASAP.