Sipping a cup of tea is one of my favorite ways to temper a sore throat. The warmth is just so soothing. When my child is in tears because of a sore throat, steeping a cup of tea for them seems to make sense — but, can toddlers drink tea?
The warm liquid sliding down my ragged throat alleviates irritation and lessens the intensity of congestion for my adult self almost immediately, so in my desperate attempt to heal my toddler's raspy cries I want to do whatever it takes to make them feel better. However, pediatricians are wary about this remedy.
"While I wouldn’t class it as unsafe per se for a toddler to drink a small amount of decaf unsweetened tea, I also wouldn’t recommend this practice to my patients’ families," Dr. Sarah Combs, emergency medicine specialist at Children’s National Hospital, tells Romper.
Toddlers are notorious for sipping on imaginary beverages during tea parties with stuffed animal friends, but as it turns out there are several reasons for young kids to avoid drinking tea. "I generally don’t recommend teas for babies and toddlers," pediatrician Dr. Whitney Casares tells Romper. "Some teas contain multiple ingredients that can be dangerous for small bodies and it can be difficult to assess how much of any one ingredient is in a serving."
The potential temperature of the tea you serve your toddler when they're feeling under the weather is also a concern. Pediatrician and parenting expert Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg recommends that parents who choose to allow their toddler to sip on tea "make sure they cool it enough so as it's not too hot" in order "to avoid burns in mouth or if spilled on self while drinking."
Dr. Jen, who also serves as a SpokesDoctor for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), notes that parents can turn to other methods of congestion relief for toddlers, such as staying hydrated by drinking lots of water, eating chicken soup, keeping their heads elevated with extra pillows, and using humidity. She tells Romper that a "humidifier or steaming up the bathroom helps give moisture to sore scratchy throats and loosen congestion."
If you don't feel comfortable providing your toddler with any sort of traditional tea, but still want to reap the benefits of sipping on soothing warm liquid, there are alternatives to try. You can whip up some warm water with lemon juice and a squeeze of honey as a "mock tea" for toddlers to get the same effect as drinking tea for a sore throat, per Healthline — just make sure you don't get the water too hot.
"Adults often reach for tea with honey and lemon to soothe throats that have been worn raw by wintertime viruses. For toddlers, however, I’d advise going straight for the pure honey — there is data to suggest that a teaspoon of honey can help alleviate children’s cough and congestion," Dr. Combs tells Romper. "Bear in mind, however, that you don’t want to give honey to little ones under the age of one year due to the risk of Botulism."
For parents who want to avoid even wondering whether or not they should serve their sick toddler a warm cuppa soothing goodness, Dr. Combs reminds parents that a bit of prevention can go a long way in ensuring your toddler is safe from cold and flu germs.
"Prevention is always best, so we do recommend that all toddlers get a yearly flu shot before winter sets in and flu takes hold within the community," she tells Romper. "Of course, there is no shot or medicine to protect against the common cold. In this case, good old-fashioned hygiene measures are best: plenty of handwashing with soap; keeping surfaces and toys clean; and — where possible — avoiding contact with others whom you know to be sick."
Dr. Whitney Casares, pediatrician and author of "The New Baby Blueprint: Caring for You and Your Little One" and host of "The Modern Mommy Doc Podcast"
Dr. Sarah Combs, emergency medicine specialist at Children’s National Hospital