Colds are caused by viruses that are spread from person to person. They are most frequent in the fall and winter and can occur 6-10 times per year in young children. Colds can last 7-10 days and clear nasal discharge often turns white, yellow or green before clearing up. Fever is uncommon. Frequent hand washing is helpful in reducing the spread of cold viruses, but catching colds from siblings, parents and schoolmates is very difficult to avoid. Antibiotics have no affect on cold viruses.
Over the counter and prescription cold medicines are intended to improve cold symptoms, but do not cure colds. They sometimes provide relief, but often are not helpful. Cold medicines can also cause side effects such as sleepiness or jitteriness.
For children less then 6 years old:
- Saline drops or Entsol Mist can help thin thick mucous that interferes with feeding or sleeping. Put 5-10 drops in each nostril and use a nasal bulb aspirator to remove the softened mucous.
- Apply Vaseline or Bacitracin to the outside of the nose and upper lip to prevent chapping and soreness.
- Use a cool mist vaporizer in the bedroom
- Apply a menthol vapor rub such as Vick’s on the chest and give plenty of clear fluids.
- Elevate one end of the mattress or have your child sleep in a car seat on an incline.
- Honey has been shown to help coughing, but can not be given to children before their first birthday. Give 1 tsp twice daily.
For children more then 6 years old:
Use cough and cold medications sparingly when cold symptoms are severe enough to cause crankiness or interfere with sleeping. Never give more than one cough or cold medication at the same time. Since some cold medications contain acetaminophen, check for that before giving Tylenol. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin) treat fever and pain, not the cough, congestion, and runny nose associated with colds and can be given with any cold medicine that does not contain those ingredients.
Call our office if you have questions or concerns about your child’s illness or if your child:
- Is wheezing, having very noisy breathing or breathing harder or faster than usual
- Is extremely fussy or sleepy or inactive
- Develops a rash
- Is less than 2 months old
- Has a persistent or high fever
- Complains of an ear ache or has persistent thick eye discharge