Unfortunately, cold season is back again! There are over one BILLION colds every year in the United States. Colds are the most common reason children miss school and parents miss work. It is not unusual for children to get many colds – (every month even!) They are highly contagious. People are contagious for the first three or so days of the cold and are usually not contagious after a week.
The most common cold symptoms are runny and stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat and fever. Some colds also cause coughing, headache, muscle aches, and poor appetite. They make us and our children miserable.
There is no cure for a cold. Antibiotics are useless, and can even be harmful. Some things that can help your child feel a little better include extra rest and fluids. A vaporizer or humidifier can provide some symptom relief. Saline nasal drops or spray can help remove some of the mucus. Propping the child’s head up while sleeping can reduce the coughing. Over the counter cold medicines in children over four years of age can help them feel better until the cold passes also.
The fluid (mucus) from the nose will get thicker and may become yellow or green within a few days. This is normal progression of the cold virus and not an automatic reason for antibiotics. If you are confused whether it is just a cold or a sinus infection, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a helpful list to differentiate the symptoms:
- Persistent: Runny nose, daytime cough (can worsen at night) or both last for 10 days and do not improve.
- Severe: Fever over 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit lasts for at least three days in a row. Mucus is thick and cloudy or colored.
- Worsening: A cold starts to improve, but fever returns or daytime cough or runny nose gets worse.
Most cold symptoms resolve in 7-10 days. If your child is still sick after a week or if you feel your child may be wheezing or having trouble breathing sooner than a week, please make an appointment to be seen by your child’s pediatrician.
To reduce your chances of catching a cold, wash your hands frequently and use hand sanitizer frequently. Avoid cigarette smoke exposure! Eat a balanced diet and get enough sleep. Some experts feel yogurt with active cultures can help as well.