Sick 2 Year Old, What to Do?!

Updated on January 30, 2010
J.S. asks from Saint Louis, MO
14 answers

Hi Mamas!
I am home today with my 2 and a half year old son who is sick. He's had a cold all week--runny nose, hacking cough, cranky. This morning he woke up with a mild fever of about 100.4. He won't eat anything. He's sleeping right now but started coughing really bad and sounded like he was coughing something up. I'm sure it's drainage from his runny nose. I've been giving him Benadryl --his doctor told me when he was an infant that he shouldn't have over the counter cold medicines but Benadryl was fine. That was back when there were all those recalls. However, now that he's a toddler, I'm wondering--is there something OTC that I can give him besides Benadryl?! I tried calling his doctor's office for advice--what I can give him or if he needs to be seen--but they were closed for lunch. I figured I'd check to see if my fellow mamas have any words of wisdom. Thanks ladies!

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So What Happened?

Thanks mamas! He has an appointment in about another hour. He is prone to ear infections and if he's got a fever after being sick all week it's worrisome to me that he is getting worse instead of better. I appreciate all your advice! I agree with the Benadryl issue--it is an allergy med, he's just been so miserable and I knew it was the only thing safe to give him. I figured it would treat his symptoms and make him drowsy before bed. I only gave the dose his doctor has told me numerous times (I tend to call for advice a lot when he gets sick!) and only once a day--before bed. Thanks again!

Featured Answers



answers from Kansas City on

Humidifiers really do help as well. You can also rub Vicks on his chest or back and try the vapor baths. They really help break up the mucus like the decongestants do without giving them the drugs. I also have a Eucliptus lotion that I put on my kids that helps. The smell of the Eucliptus isn't as strong as the menthol and works the same way.

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answers from Dallas on


Sorry to hear your lil one is sick. That is NO fun!

Have you tried putting Vicks vapor rub on his feet? We do this when our littles ones get sick - especially now that they can't really take cold medicine! Just wipe the vapor rub on his feet, then cover them with helps calm coughs!!

Also, a vaporizer works well too - just to help him feel a little more comfy.

I wouldn't do the whole benedryl thing though - that might makes things more difficult for him (and you). It makes kids SOOOOOOO groggy and often times just makes them so loopy that they CAN'T sleep and then they are overtired and crabby.

You could always try to talk to a pharmacist. SOMETIMES they will give you some info - but you might have to try several pharmacies to get someone to tell you something! One thing we do is call and say "our dr. told us to give our daughter *fill in the blank* (pedialite cough syrup or whatever its called) but we didn't write down the dose" -- then the pharmacist will be more willing to give you the correct dose based on your childs age. Be sure to weigh your son before dosing him though - that way you are sure to get the right amount.

Hope that helps. God bless,



answers from Chicago on

I just actually talked to my doctor's office a little while ago about the same thing. My 2 year old has a horrible cough and runny/stuffy nose. She hasn't had a fever yet and her symptoms just started yesterday. Her doctor said there was not any over the counter medicine to give her since she was still under the age of 4. She said to use nasal saline spray, give her benadryl before she goes to sleep and use a cool mist humidifier in her room. She also said that if her symptoms continue or get worse in the next couple of days to bring her in. Since your son has been sick for a week already I would probably suggest taking him in to the doctor. Good luck, hope he feels better.



answers from Honolulu on

Take him to the Doctor.
Don't guess at it.



answers from Denver on

Hi J. - I know how you want your little guy to feel better but I would recommend talking with your doc before medicating your little guy even with Benadryl. Benadryl probably isnt the right med in this case either. It tends to dry up secretions and can make them thicker. It also can make them sleepy which can make secretions stay in place and thicker too, promoting infection. Your little guy coughing and even throwing up all that gunk is actually a really good thing. It's how our bodies work to clear infection. He will probably feel tons better just with a dose of kids motrin.

The best natural decongestant is to let them play and run all they want. He will cough and maybe throw up but it's okay. Give him small easily digested meals and lots and lots of liquids. Keep a humidifier going in his bedroom when he sleeps and sit with him in a steamy bathroom several times a day. Keep him dressed warmly but not to point of overheating. A small thing like wearing socks in the house can often do wonders toward stopping a runny nose. If he has been dealing with this for at least a week and not improving, have your doc evaluate him for infection.

I hope he feels better!



answers from Charlotte on

Hi J.,

I would take him back to the doctor to make sure he doesn't have bronchitis. That coughing sounds bad. If he doesn't feel like eating, get some Pedialyte in him to keep him properly hydrated (eletrolytes and such). They make popsicles if he doesn't like the drink - it's worth buying. Getting too dehydrated is dangerous to his kidneys, and can make him so sick you could end up in the ER.

The mention of a cold-mist vaporizer is good.

Best of luck to you and your DS.



answers from Tulsa on

I hated when they pulled all the OTC drugs for little kids, Pediacare really worked well for us. My 3 yr old boy weighs the same as my 6 yr old girl and I can't give him meds but I can give her meds...HUH?

Benadryl in an Antihistamine. It's job is to dry up snot and stop mast cells from going off in an allergic reaction.

Sudafed causes the blood vessels in the sinus area to react and cause sinus pressure to change so snot/nasal congestion can be released.

Most OTC chest congestion drugs are Guaifenesin. Some, like Delsyn, do have other medication but almost all have this expectorant in them. They cause the mucus int he throat and lungs to stay runnier so they can be coughed up.

Sometimes doctors will recommend using a nebulizer and Xophenex (best choice for kids) or Albuterol to help kids have a more productive cough. It dialates the bronchial tubes therefore the mucus is easier to get out, plus the nebulizer vials have some steril water in the mix and that helps loosen the goo too.

My pediatrician told me there is no research that show the "DM" part of cough syrups works.

Fever usually means the body is fighting off infection somewhere. It's over 100 degrees, time to go to the doctor.

Use humidifiers all the time, warm showers several times a day, take all the meds the doctor gives, drink clear liquids like water, beware of fluids disguised as hydrating drinks, they can be mostly flavored salt water, salt water drys you out.



answers from Kansas City on

I would recommend going to the ped, if possible before the weekend. If it is just a cold, we use Pediacare, and nothing else. No tylenol, no motrin, no benedryl. You do NOT want to accidentally overdose them on something because there are ingredients in cold medicines that may also be in the tylenol or whatever. Pediacare is available at Walgreens, CVS, etc, and if used in proper dosages (by poundage, not age) is generally ok.



answers from Indianapolis on

I would certainly call the doctor at the very lease.

I don't understand the use of Benadryl as it's an allergy medication, not a cough/cold medication. It is an antihistamine to treat allergic reactions.

The reason that cough/cold meds were no longer recommended is that the ingredients aren't suitable for children under 6, so the American Academy of Pediatrics changed their policy. They haven't reversed it to date.

There could be several reasons for a cough, but only your pediatrician or another qualified health care professional can diagnose it properly. I agree that it's not a good idea to guess with things like RSV, H1N1 (for which cough is a common symptom), etc. going around.



answers from New London on

If he was sick all week and now has a fever he may have a sinus or ear infection. You may want to have him checked out. That is a sign that things have turned for the worse. If it was a normal cold he would be showing signs of improvement. My son was like that, I thought he was getting better then he woke up with a slight fever, then started pulling on his ears. He has only had two ear infections in two and half years, but a visit to the doc might be necessary. There isn't much you can do for a normal cold, except use saline nose spray for stuffiness and runny nose (it works great) and a humifier. Best wishes to you and your little boy.



answers from Nashville on

My pediatrician does not recommend any medication for congestion. They recommend lifting the head of the bed and running a humidifier.

I would note, however, that if a fever arises after the child has had congestion for a few days, then they like to see him because it is usually a sign of an ear infection.

Good luck!



answers from Kansas City on

Ugh... My 2 1/2 year old daughter has had a runny nose and nasty cough all week as well but no temperature. I hope she doesn't develop one! Anyway, her doctor told me they don't recommend any OTC cold medicines for children under a certain age (I can't remember for sure but want to say it was like 5 or older?). I would maybe try to get him into the doctor if they are concerned. Hopefully you will hear something back from them soon. I know there is a lot going around lately.


answers from Kansas City on

Nope. They pulled all the cold meds for kiddos his age too. We're in the same boat. Our 3 year old just got over a nasty cold. We did the benadryl, mainly to help her sleep and motrin to keep her comfortable. Just make sure he's getting enough liquids, push water, juice, jello, popsicles, soup, etc. He might have a bit of a sore throat. Use a vaporizer/humidifier, and you can try some vicks to help him breathe a bit better. Other than that, it just takes time. It stinks, I know. I hope he feels better soon!


answers from Kansas City on

RSV is going around right now as always at this time of the year. He very well could have that and it can easily turn into Bronchitis and or Pnemonia. I agree with the others that you need to get him in to see someone.

I also agree that Benadryl isn't going to help a virus or infection. It's for Allergies. However, I do believe that it's a great help for sleeping and if you follow the directions closely, then it won't hurt. Benadryl can and has killed too. I think it's sad that our children are supposed to suffer because some parents couldn't read labels! Sorry, that's a rant for another time. He needs sleep too. I absolutely would do a safe amount of Benadryl since you already know he's not allergic to it and it should make him better able to sleep.

If he's having any issues with a stuffy nose, then get some pure peppermint essential oils. Put it in a diffuser or put it on an air filter if you run one or dribble it in a pan of simmering water or put it in the humidifier. It really clears the sinuses.


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