Colds, aka upper respiratory tract infections, are the most common illnesses your child will encounter. In fact, once your child enters daycare/preschool, you can expect an average of eight colds each year usually, occurring 2-3 days after exposure and lasting anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. Some of the more common symptoms your child may have include a runny or stuffy nose, sore or scratchy throat, sneezing, coughing, and even a low grade temperature. And with the nasal discharge, it can be watery or that thick yellow or green color. Furthermore, please realize colds are quite contagious, particularly during the first couple of days after symptoms appear, and they can spread via person-to-person contact, airborne particles, or a contaminated surface.

What can you do to help your child with a cold?

Well, it's first important to realize colds are caused by viruses (and most commonly by rhinoviruses) and antibiotics will not be helpful because they are used for bacterial infections and not viruses. But some of the supportive care measures you can employ include:

  • Elevating the head while sleeping
  • Humidified air (we prefer cool mist humidifiers) to loosen the nasal secretions
  • Maintaining good hydration and getting good rest
  • Using nasal saline drops and bulb suctioning the nose periodically
  • Chicken soup? Well, although the research is limited, it is known that chicken soup has an amino acid, cysteine, which has mucous thinning properties. So we say it's worth a try.

But please don't forget the most recent recommendations regarding over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medications that state they should not be used for children less than 4 years of age; secondary to no real data supporting its effectiveness and the concern of overdosing.

When should you bring your child in to see us?

Well, first and foremost, if you have any concern of your child's well-being. But other guidelines on when to bring in your ill child include:

  • Shortness of breath and/or difficulty breathing
  • When the coughing worsens
  • Increased tiredness or lethargy
  • Cannot maintain good hydration status
  • A sore throat with a pretty good amount of pain when swallowing.
  • Fever persisting for more than three days or a fever not responsive to medical intervention and cooling measures
  • Ear pain

And is there anything to be done to prevent colds?

  • Although it may appear obvious, avoid those who have a cold and things they may have touched, such as utensils, cups and tissues.
  • Good hand-washing
  • Cover your nose/mouth prior to sneezing/coughing. Have your child cough into his/her elbow, not hand.
  • And for those wondering about zinc, vitamin C and Echinacea, there still exists no solid research supporting their use in children to prevent colds.