Tis the Season: Recognize and Treat Your Little One’s Cold

Did you know there are hundreds of different cold viruses?

In fact, the average healthy child catches about three to eight colds per year! While it’s impossible to prevent your family from being exposed to cold viruses, you can do several things to minimize the risk of infection and comfort your little one when they do indeed catch a cold.

What exactly is the “common cold”?

Colds are a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract- the nose and throat, to be specific. Symptoms may include a runny nose, nasal congestion, cough, fever, generalized aches, and malaise (“the blahs”). Noisy or “rattly” breathing is common.

How to decrease the risk of infection

  1. Wash your hands! It’s not just a cliché- it’s the best way to minimize the risk of getting sick and spreading infection. Use soap and water and rub hands together for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  2. Don’t touch your eyes, mouth, or nose unless you have washed your hands first.
  3. Avoid sharing foods and utensils with others and wash your hands before handling or eating food.
  4. Cough into your elbow or a napkin, not your hand, to avoid spreading germs to others.
  5. Eat nutritious foods, exercise regularly and get quality sleep to help keep your immune system strong.

Will antibiotics help my child’s cold?

Because colds are caused by viruses, not bacteria, antibiotics are not helpful and can actually be harmful when prescribed unnecessarily. The green colored mucus your child may have is not a sign that an antibiotic is needed. As the body’s immune system fights off an infection, the mucus will often change color. Always feel comfortable asking your child’s pediatrician for the reason you’re being prescribed a medication to make sure it’s actually needed.

Comforting your child during the cold

  1. Nasal Drainage. Elevating the head of your child’s bed, as well as using a humidifier or warm bath can help improve nasal drainage.
  2. Fever. Generally, medicine is only necessary if your child is uncomfortable. If they are younger than two-years-old, you should discuss any medications with your child’s provider. It is not uncommon to have a fever the first few days of a viral illness. Try dressing your child in lightweight clothing and keeping their room at a comfortable temperature.
  3. Nasal Congestion. Saline nose drops may help clear nasal congestion and are okay for all ages. You can even make them at home using warm water, baking soda, and salt!
  4. Avoid Dehydration. Encourage your child to drink fluids as much as possible- breastmilk, formula, water are ideal. When your child is ill, it is okay to try diluted fruit juices or Popsicles, but when their symptoms improve, avoid these added sugars wherever possible.
  5. Coughing. Remember that coughing is beneficial in clearing the infection. To comfort your child, try one teaspoon of honey directly or even mixed in an herbal tea. This is a great option if your child is over 12-months-old.
Categories: Influenza/Colds
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