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4 Tips to Ease Your Child's Cold

Kids are sick twice as much as adults on average. How can a parent help?

If it seems that your child is sick much more often than you - chances are you are correct. On average, a child gets 6-10 colds each year -compared to 2 or 3 for an adult.

What causes these colds?

Most common colds are the result of rhinovirus but there are many other viruses that can cause the common cold symptoms. Colds usually last 7-10 days and are characterized by symptoms like:

  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Headache
  • Body aches

Can't you prescribe something to make the cold go away?

Antibiotic medicines target bacterial infections. Viruses are not like a bacterial infection so they will not respond to antibiotics.

We also do not recommend giving any over-the-counter medications to children under the age of 2 because they do not work and may actually have side effects that can harm young children. For children over the age of 2, I recommend talking to your health care provider before giving any over-the-counter medications.

4 tips to ease a cold

There are steps a parent can take to help lessen the symptoms and speed recovery from a cold. Here are the actions I recommend:

1. Keep the child well hydrated

Juice or water keeps the mucus of your child's nose and respiratory track thin and able to flush out the virus.

2. Use saline nose spray

When your child suffers from a cold his nose frequently becomes clogged from the infection. Using a saline nasal spray helps prevent the infection from settling in the sinuses. In general you can use nasal saline with an aspirator, a suction bulb or oral aspirator up to 4 times a day while child has a stuffy nose.

3. Ease your child's cough

For children from 3 months to 1 year of age you can give warm clear fluids such as apple juice or warm water to help loosen secretions. I recommend 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon up to 4 times daily.

For a child older than one year of age a ½  teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of honey can help loosen the secretions.

Do not use honey with a child younger than one year of age. This may cause infant botulism -a very serious disease.

4. Increase humidity.

A cool mist humidifier can add moisture to the air keeping your child's nose and airway from drying out.

If your child's symptoms are not disturbing his sleep and he does not have a fever over 102, no treatment may be needed. Fever and pain can be treated with acetaminophen for children 3 months and older for children 6 months and older ibuprofen. Never use aspirin as it is associated with the rare but serious illness called Reye syndrome.

A child will generally recover from a viral infection within 7-10 days. As a parent, you know your child best-if you are concerned, call us so we can help you provide the best care possible.

Emilio Arispe, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic 192 Dodge

Dr. Arispe answers your questions about child health and parenting. Dr. Arispe's patients like him so much that they pretend to be Dr. Arispe at home. He enjoys being a pediatrician and being a part of his patients' lives and seeing them grow over the years. He wants to be a voice for kids and their moms when it comes to their health care. Being a pediatrician is a passion and he enjoys teaching kids and parents about being healthy and he tries to build trust with his patients and their fa ...

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