Cold in Children – Causes, Signs & Treatment
- What Is a Cold?
- Causes of a Cold in Children
- Symptoms of a Cold in Kids
- Is a Cold Contagious?
- How Long Does a Cold Last in Children?
- How Is a Cold Diagnosed in Children?
- How Many Times a Year Can a Child Get a Cold?
- Complications of a Cold in Kids
- Medical Treatment for a Cold
- Are Cold Medicines Safe for Children?
- Home Remedies for a Cold in Kids
- How to Prevent Your Child From Catching a Cold
- When to Call the Paediatrician
Kids get a common cold about eight times a year roughly and if your child is being called to the nurse’s office and skipping school too often, he/she may have a case of the common cold! Although it’s nothing serious, sometimes a cold may develop into pneumonia if proper care isn’t taken which is why it’s always a good idea to be well informed rather than overlook or dismiss it as a phase. Here’s everything you should know about cold in children, including its causes, symptoms and remedies which you can try at home.
What Is a Cold?
A cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract which is caused due to the rhinovirus entering your child’s protect nostril lining which incites an immune response from the body, thus triggering the cold. Put simply, if your child is coughing, has a runny nose and is sneezing too often – he has a cold.
Causes of a Cold in Children
The common cold in children is contagious by nature and is caused by various circumstances such as-
- Exposure to the rhinovirus through water droplets in the air.
- Being exposed to someone already infected by a cold.
- Touching contaminated surfaces that spread cold.
Symptoms of a Cold in Kids
Common symptoms of cold in kids are-
- Mild or low-grade fever
- Sore throat
- Difficulty breathing through the nose
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Muscle aches
- Reduced or low appetite
- Thick yellow or green mucus emerging from the nostrils
Is a Cold Contagious?
Yes. The common cold is contagious and if your child comes in contact with someone who has it, he/she could contract it. Even touching any surfaces that are infected with the rhinovirus can catch a cold. You touch it, you get near it, you come in contact with it, you get it – as simple as that.
How Long Does a Cold Last in Children?
Cold symptoms begin to appear in kids within two or three days but generally speaking, the common cold lasts for roughly a week in children and sometimes a bit longer.
How Is a Cold Diagnosed in Children?
Your doctor may examine your child’s nose, throat and take a throat culture using a cotton swab for diagnosis of the common cold
How Many Times a Year Can a Child Get a Cold?
Children less than 5 years can get a cold approximately eight times a year and the frequency decreases as the child become older. Sometimes it may be less but general statistics indicate that as the average number of cold cases throughout the year.
Complications of a Cold in Kids
The complications of cold in kids include:
1. Ear infections
Some kids develop a viral ear infection with the common cold. If the cold persists for more than three days and your child has a fever of over 38 degrees Celcius, you can be sure it’s an ear infection.
Children who have common cold experience worsening of their asthma, if it’s already existing due to wheezing and coughing.
Common colds lasting more than 10 days lead to nasal congestion which develops into bacterial sinusitis.
If your child is breathing too fast, has a cough and exhibits cold symptoms beyond the 2-3 day mark, he/she may have pneumonia.
Medical Treatment for a Cold
Colds usually clear up on their own after a while but if you want to give your child medicines, you may consider acetaminophen based on their age or weight. Never give kids aspirin since its use has been linked to a syndrome known as the ‘Reye Syndrome.’ For cough suppression and post-nasal drips, you may consider using decongestants.
Are Cold Medicines Safe for Children?
Here’s what you have to know regarding using medications for the treatment of cold in children-
- The FDA recommends that children below 2 years old should not be given cold medications or OTC (Over-the-Counter) remedies.
- Most cough medication labels mention the fact of whether their products are safe for kids below 4 years old or 2 years old.
- In general, cold medicines are considered unsafe for children below 4 years old.
- The American College of Chest Physicians guidelines recommend not to give cold and cough medications for kids below 15 years old.
Home Remedies for a Cold in Kids
Curing a cold begins at home and here are some cold remedies for kids–
Want your child to be free of the cold? Let him sleep on it – literally! Sleeping rejuvenates the body and lets it do its thing. The body will be fighting the cold on the inside and the best way to help that cause is by making sure he gets his naps and night-time sleep.
2. Elevate the Pillow
Elevate the pillow or mattress. This will let his sinuses to drain naturally and bring some relief. Rolled towels and yoga mats work just as well.
A cold-mist humidifier adds moisture to your kid’s room which helps them beat or prevent the cold. Be sure to clean the filters regularly since mould and mildew may build up if left unchecked.
Make sure your kids drink plenty of water, fresh fruit and vegetable juices and herbal teas to flush out the germs from their system. Hydration is key to treating the common cold.
5. Chicken Soup
Chicken soup is for the soul of those who have a common cold. Your grandma was right, it’s a wonderful home remedy. The soup is a very good decongestant while the broth hydrates.
Take 1/4 tsp of salt, mix it in warm water and teach your child some gargling basics. Gargling relieves sore throats and lessens the pain.
7. Steam Baths
Steam baths flush out mucus, helps kids breathe better, and finally, reduces their high body temperature, thus bringing down their fever.
If your child is over 1 year old, you could add a pinch of honey to his water. It works well except for kids under 1-year-old who may get botulism.
How to Prevent Your Child From Catching a Cold
Although there’s no specific vaccine for the common cold, there are different ways you can prevent your child from catching a cold-
1. Practice Proper Hygiene
Wash hands thoroughly before and after every meal. Make this a house rule. Encourage them to use disposable tissues for sneezing and coughing. Tell them to wash their hands with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, an alcohol-based sanitizer will do.
Wash your child’s toys periodically and use a disinfectant to clean kitchen counters and tabletops.
3. No Sharing
Cups and plates shouldn’t be shared across family members. Everybody will get their own utensils for drinking and eating. Label them, if needed and use disposable cups for occasions when a family member is sick.
4. No Contact
Make it a rule of thumb to not get close to those who have a cold, especially where children are concerned.
5. Choose An Appropriate Child Care Center
Where you send your child to for his basic schooling will factor a lot. Select child care centres with good hygiene policies in place and one that allows sick kids to stay back home.
6. Nutrition and Lifestyle
When to Call the Paediatrician
Although colds go away on their own, a visit to the paediatrician is warranted if your child experiences the following symptoms-
- Fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit up to 12 weeks in newborn
- High fever which lasts beyond 2 to 4 days
- Loss of appetite
- Abnormal drowsiness
- Pain in the ears
- Any other cold symptoms that fail to improve despite remedies and medications
- Headache and cough
Prevention is always better than cure and the same goes for common colds. If you suspect your child has a cold, then give him plenty of rest, healthy foods and enough time to recuperate. Practice proper hygiene at school and home and take extra precaution when sending your kids outdoors.
If you follow the prevention tips outlined above, you won’t have to worry about the cold and if your child’s cold symptoms are worsening despite the above remedies, it’s best to call or take him to the paediatrician.