Q: Which homeopathic remedy should I give when my child has a cold or flu?

A: Often effective is Children’s Oscillococcinum, a proprietary remedy from the company Boiron (available at many health-food stores and online). Give it at the first sign of a cold or flu, following instructions on the label.

If Oscillococcinum fails to help within four hours, individualize the treatment by using the remedy below that most closely matches the child’s symptoms. Try…

Aconitum napellus when symptoms come on suddenly (as frequently happens after exposure to cold wind)… significant chills precede a fever that rises in the evening or at night… pupils of the eyes are small… the child is scared, restless and thirsty.

Arsenicum album when the child is anxious and restless… complains of burning pains (for example, in the throat) that improve when warm compresses or pads are applied… and has signs of stomach flu (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea).

Belladonna when there is very rapid onset of symptoms and high fever… eyes are glassy and pupils large… there is perhaps slight twitching of the face and body… the child seems confused… and the child is not thirsty (or he or she may specifically crave lemonade!).

Bryonia alba when fever develops slowly… chills (if any) begin around 9 am or 9 pm and start in the fingers, toes or lips… the child craves lots of cold water, complains of pain (including a painful cough) and wants to be absolutely still, quiet and left alone.

Gelsemium sempervirens when fever is accompanied by tremendous weakness and sleepiness (for instance, he won’t even open his eyes)… chills run up and down the back… the head feels heavy and perhaps achy… limbs feel heavy… the child is not thirsty.

Ferrum phosphoricum when the child has a fever but his symptoms do not match any of the other descriptions above.

The remedies above are safe and appropriate for children age two years and up. Give five pellets of a 30C concentration, then wait 30 minutes. If there is no change, try a different remedy. If the child improves somewhat, repeat the dosage once or twice at hourly intervals, for a maximum of three doses per day. If the child is not significantly better in 24 hours or if symptoms are severe, consult your pediatrician.