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Colds, also known as upper respiratory infections (URIs), are usually caused by viruses. Children can get an average of 8 -10 colds each year. Keep in mind that colds can occur anytime during the course of the year but typically cluster in the fall and winter seasons. Most colds last about 7-10 days and, in some cases, up to 14 days. When your child recovers from one cold, only to get sick with the next, you may feel as if he or she has been sick for months at time. If your child is of a young age, attends daycare, or is in regular contact with school aged children, you can expect to have more frequent colds.

What are some of the signs and symptoms of a cold?

In about 2-3 days after being exposed to “cold” germs, symptoms appear.During the first day or two your child may have fever, low energy level, stuffy/runny nose and complain of a scratchy throat. In the days following, you will notice a cough and perhaps sneezing, watery eyes, and the loss of appetite.

What can I do to help my child feel better?

The body’s natural response in dealing with a cold, can make your child feel awful. As a parent, you just want to make it all go away, and fast! You may wonder why your pediatrician does not offer a quick remedy like an antibiotic. Well, antibiotics simply do not work against viruses. These medicines only kill bacteria. However, if your pediatrician suspects that your child has developed a bacterial complication, such as an ear infection, strep throat, or pneumonia, it is only then that an antibiotic will be considered.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend the use of over-the-counter cough and cold remedies in children under the age of 4 years old. However, here are a few things you can do to make your child feel comfortable:

  • Hydration

Encouraging lots of fluids is a must. A cold may increase the risk of dehydration due to fevers, which cause fluid loss from the skin. Your child’s lack of interest in taking anything by mouth will also add to this risk. Dehydration worsens everything. To prevent this, offer your child small amounts of fluid regularly and work towards steadily increasing the volume as tolerated. Using an oral rehydration fluid, such as Pedialyte, is a great way to maintain hydration.

  • Saline nose drops or spray

This will help remove mucous from the nose, allowing your child to breath and rest easier. The use of a bulb suction, after applying these drops in the nose of a young infant, will help you effectively remove mucous. If your child is older, simply encourage him or her to blow their nose well.

  • Cool mist humidifier and elevation of the head

The added use of a cool mist humidifier will help keep mucous thin. Thin mucous will be easier to remove or blow out. Also, elevating the head while in bed will help mucous flow freely, reducing its build in the back of the throat. The end result is less coughing. (Warning: Do not use pillows to elevate the head in children under 2 years old).

  • Honey

Honey is recommended to soothe and help quiet coughing. Your child’s pediatrician can guide you on how much honey to try based on your child’s age. Honey should not be used in children under the age of 1 year old since it can lead to botulism. Remember to always rinse the mouth or brush the teeth if honey is given around bedtime.

  • Fever reducers

A fever is part of our body’s response to an infection. Even so, it can make your child uncomfortable. To help relieve fevers or pain, you can use medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. It is very important to follow dosing instructions. Additionally, ibuprofen should not be used in infants younger than 6 months old. Finally, never use aspirin in children or teenagers since it can be associated with a serious condition known as Reye Syndrome. If your child has a fever that persists or becomes difficult to manage, call our clinic to schedule an appointment.

  • Vicks

Applying VapoRub/Vapor Rub is another way to help calm your child’s cough. The rub is typically applied to the neck, chest, and back. Use of these rubs is not recommended for children younger than 2 years old.