10 Must-Have Items for Cold and Flu Season


As we enter another cold and flu season, it’s time to check in on your home sick-day supply kit. I know it can be overwhelming sometimes to navigate the cold and flu aisle at the pharmacy, so I have listed the must-have items below that I believe every family should have on hand, for when the common cold illnesses do hit your household. 

1. Nasal Saline

Nasal saline sprays and drops are used to moisturize nasal passages and thin out mucus so that it is more easily cleared from the sinus cavity. It is best to use these before feedings and before sleep. My favorite brand for babies and children is Little Remedies.

2. Nasal Aspirator 

There are several types of nasal aspirators on the market. These help to clear the sinus cavity of mucus for those little ones who are too young to do it themselves. I always recommend adding saline drops or spray to the nares before using the aspirator. I believe everyone with an infant or toddler needs at least one of these in their medicine kit.

3. Manual Nasal Suction

Bulb syringes can be used on infants, as well as toddlers and preschoolers. They are the easiest to use but some brands are more difficult to clean. My favorite brands include McKesson, NeilMed, BoogieBulb.

4. Oral Nasal Suction 

These are effective and hygienic nose clearing devices that many parents love. By far my favorite is NoseFrida. I like it because it is easily cleaned and is a bit more effective than the bulb syringe. 

5. Electric Nasal Suction  

There are a lot of electronic nose suction devices on the market and they can be quite pricey. But they are effective. Be sure to choose one that is age appropriate for your child. My current favorite brands are Grownsy, Braun, Frida Baby and NeilMed.

6. Thermometer 

There are many types of thermometers on the market. For children two and under, the most accurate way to measure their temperature is rectally. The second most accurate way, once they are old enough, is orally.

Temporal (forehead) thermometers are a great way to screen the temperature as well. Axillary (underarm) is another good way to measure the temperature, when the thermometer is used correctly. Tympanic (ear) thermometers generally tend to be less accurate.

At our house, we have had the most luck, in terms of ease of use and accuracy, with the iHealth No-Touch Forehead Thermometer (temporal) and the The Frida Baby 3-in-1 True Temp Thermometer for rectal, oral, or axillary readings. 

7. Fever Reducer

The two fever reducers on the market that are safe and effective for infants and children are acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc.). These are made in infant and children formulations, and are available in liquid and chewable forms. It is important to ensure you are giving the proper dose for your child’s weight. Ibuprofen is only indicated for use in babies six months and older. Aspirin is not indicated for infants or children. Always check with your pediatrician to see what they recommend. 

8. Cough/Cold Medication

For children under four years of age, it is recommended to use natural honey-based cough remedies. Our favorite is the Zarbee’s brand. Since babies under one year of age cannot have honey, they make one with agave, which is safe for use in babies two months of age, and older. We also love their baby chest rub, and use it nightly when our little one’s have a cold.

For children over the age of four, cough suppressants containing Dextromethorphan are safe and effective, when used properly. Delsym is my favorite because it is a single-ingredient medication. There is also a place for expectorants and antihistamines for cold care. You should discuss the use of these with your child’s pediatric provider. If you are looking for a “cleaner” option, we have been loving the Genexa brand

9. Rehydration Solution 

I always recommend keeping these stocked at all times. You never know when your little one will be hit with vomiting and diarrhea. It is usually sudden onset, and it is helpful to already have your rehydration solution on hand for easy access.

Many common viruses can bring these GI symptoms, along with the typical cold symptoms. When it comes to rehydration solutions, it’s important to choose one that is specific for children, such as Pedialyte. Pedialyte also makes popsicles as well, which are a big hit at our house when our little ones are sick. Liquid I.V. also now makes a hydration multiplier for kids. If you are looking for a more natural option, we have been loving BerriLyte, which is an organic plant-based rapid response electrolyte solution.

10. Cool Mist Humidifier 

Having a good cool mist humidifier on hand is important, especially during cold and flu season. Humidified air can aid in keeping the sinus cavity properly moisturized, leading to increased comfort, in terms of cough and congestion symptoms. The ideal humidity level for your home is between 30-50%. It is important to keep the humidifier clean, to prevent the growth of mold. The ones we have used in our house and have liked so far are the Crane and Frida Baby brands. 

This is not an exhaustive list but it’s a good start as you build or refresh your medicine bag or cabinet, in preparation for sick season. You can also call the pediatrician’s office or speak with your pharmacist, if you have questions about safe medication use. They can help you with questions regarding dosages, and address any concerns about interactions with other medications that your child may already be taking.

I know how stressful it can be when your little one is sick. Although some illnesses end up needing interventions beyond just supportive care, I hope this list will help you feel a little more prepared, and less stressed, the next time your little one comes home with a common kid illness.

What items would you add to this list?


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Heather Blanton Burns
Heather Blanton Burns lives in Columbia with her husband and daughter. Natives of South Carolina, they love taking road trips to visit family, as well as spending time at the lakes, beaches and mountains nearby. Heather is a Board Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and Certified Gentle Sleep Coach. She received her undergraduate degree from the College of Charleston and her doctoral degree from the Medical University of South Carolina. She cares for children of all ages at a small pediatric practice locally. She founded a small business, Cultivating Bright Futures, in 2020 to support mothers through education and provide encouragement for mothers at every step along their motherhood journey. When she’s not working, Heather enjoys reading, spending quality time with family and friends, staying involved in the community through Junior League, eating delicious food at local restaurants, checking out local events in Columbia and staying active through walking, yoga and barre.


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