Dr Carleene Grant-Davis | Why does my child get cold so often?
There is a simple reason why the common cold or upper respiratory tract infection got its name. It is very common. Children will have more colds in their lifetime than any other illnesses. In fact, in the first two years alone children may get eight to ten colds. Children who attend day care or have other school age kids in the home may get even more, because colds spread very easily among kids when they are in close contact with each other.
Sounds scary? Hold on, there is very good news.
Most colds will get better within 7-10 days without any treatment or with home remedies and will not lead to any complications.
Signs and symptoms of a cold
- Runny nose (first, clear, then thicker and colored)
- Mild fever (101-102 degrees Fahrenheit [38.3-38.9 degrees Celsius])
- Decreased appetite
- Sore throat
- Slightly swollen glands
Managing your child's cold
Colds are caused by viruses. Unfortunately, there is no cure for viruses. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses. However, most children with an uncomplicated cold need no medication or can be treated with simple home remedies. In either case, the symptoms will gradually disappear over 7 to 10 days.
Over-the-counter medications are not necessary and in most cases are no more beneficial than home remedies. In some cases, the risks of serious side effects outweigh any benefits on reducing symptoms. In addition, coughing clears mucus from the lower part of the respiratory tract, so there's no reason to suppress it.
Simple home remedies include:
- Runny Nose: suction or blow. When your child's nose is running, it's getting rid of viruses.
- Blocked Nose: use saline nose drops or warm water. Then suction or blow. Teens can just splash warm water into their nostrils
- Coughing: children three months to one year of age: Give warm clear fluids. Avoid honey because it can cause infantile botulism
Children One Year and Older: Use honey, half to one teaspoon as needed. It thins secretions and loosens the cough.
Fluids: Help your child drink plenty of fluids. Staying well hydrated thins the body's secretions, making it easier to cough and blow the nose.
Humidity: use a humidifier or run a warm shower for a while.
If symptoms aren't bothering your child, they don't need medicine or home remedies. Many children with a cough or nasal congestion are happy, play normally and sleep peacefully.
Only treat symptoms if they cause discomfort, interrupt sleep or really bother your child (for example, a hacking cough)
Visit your doctor IF:
- Your child is less than three months old. With a young baby, symptoms can be misleading, and colds can quickly develop into more serious conditions, such as bronchiolitis, croup, or pneumonia.
- Your child is breathing rapidly or having any difficulty breathing.
- The nasal mucus persists for longer than 14 days.
- The cough just won't go away (it lasts more than one week).
- Your child has ear pain.
- His/her temperature is over 102 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 degrees Celsius).
- He/she is excessively sleepy or cranky.
- Dr Carleene Grant-Davis is a consultant paediatrician and head, Department of Paediatrics, Cornwall Regional Hospital; email: firstname.lastname@example.org