Common Kid or Spouse Complaints and How To Make Them Better

Estimated Reading Time 3 Minutes

The bathroom medicine cabinet can easily turn into a dumping ground of expired tablets and encrusted bottles. Then, when someone is sick, it’s hard to know what to reach for. Sherry Torkos, a pharmacist in Fort Erie, Ont., as well as the author of The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, dispenses some advice about what treatments to have on hand for these typical ailments. NOTE


Headaches, toothaches, cramps and injuries can often keep kids irritable and awake. Try:

  • acetominophen (found in Tylenol) or ibuprofen (found in Advil) – both are available in children’s formulations and in generic brands as well; ibuprofen should be taken with food.
  • hot water bottle or heating pad – helps soothe muscle cramps;use only for about 10 minutes.
  • Arnica gel – can ease pain and inflammation for bruises and minor soft tissue injuries.
  • ice pack – apply to injury or sprain soon after accident; wrap in a towel to avoid damaging skin.
  • capsaicin – active compound from hot pepper extract temporarily desensitizes pain receptors; wash hands afterwards and don’t rub your eyes, nose or mouth; not for open wounds.


In 2008, Health Canada began requiring manufacturers to label over-the-counter cough and cold medicines not for use in children under six. That’s because there is little scientific evidence that they work in that age group, and in fact could be damaging, especially if taken often and for prolonged periods. Health Canada further advises children ages six to 12 should only be given cold medications with dosages for children. Colds will run their course, but you can help make your child more comfortable so he or she can get proper rest.

  • warm salt water – older children who know how can gargle with warm salt water twice a day to reduce swelling and kill bacteria in the throat.
  • saline nasal drops or spray – helps reduce decongestion and thin secretions.
  • North American ginseng (ColdFx) –Health Canada has approved product claims of helping to reduce the frequency, severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms by boosting the immune system.
  • Lozenges – ingredients such as honey, zinc, eucalyptus or echinacea can comfort a sore throat.
  • Water – the safest way to relieve a persistent cough and prevent dehydration.
  • Vaporizer or humidifier – both add moisture to a room. This helps thin secretions, make coughs more productive and prevent bacteria from building up.


  • Calamine lotionthat familiar pink bottle has seen many a child through chicken pox.
  • After-Bite – provides quick relief for bug bite itch. Or, make a paste of baking soda and water; apply to bite and let dry.
  • Oatmeal bath -helps relieve dry, itchy skin. Try Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment or make your own treatment by adding two cups of ground colloidal oatmeal (not breakfast oatmeal) to a tub of warm water (hot water can further dry out and irritate skin).
  • Moisturizer – look for Vitamin E and aloe to help dry, itchy skin; avoid scented products unless they use essential oils such as lavender, camomile or calendula.


Anti-diarrheal medications are not usually recommended for children, but you can treat the symptoms, prevent dehydration and replace electrolytes. Call your health-care provider if it doesn’t clear up in a few days or if there are other symptoms such as fever and vomiting.

  • Electrolytes – in products such as Pedialyte; helps prevent dehydration and malnourishment.
  • Bananas – the soluble fibre pectin can help normalize bowel movements. Also loaded with potassium,which is an electrolyte.
  • Water – helps replace lost fluids and prevent dehydration.


  • Hydrogen peroxide – Apply to cuts and scrapes with a cotton ball.
  • Polysporin – Apply to cuts and cover with a bandage.
  • Teatree oil – a natural antiseptic, use diluted (1:20) to clean cuts.


  • Dimenhydrinate – an antiemetic that works by affecting the vomiting centre in the brain; active ingredient in Gravol, great for long car rides and for children who seem to pick up stomach bugs easily; available in suppositories, ideal for babies and children who can’t keep anything down. 
  • Ginger – contains very potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols, which have been found to help relieve nausea and gas and soothe the intestinal tract. Try ginger tea, ginger tablets or real ginger ale such as Reed’s Ginger Brew, found in health food stores.

Published March 2010

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