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What To Do If Your Kid Has A Cold

Feb 10, 2020 By Ima Nabiuny
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Hearing extra sniffles around your house? Kids tend to get runny noses in winter – but how do you know when it’s the start of a cold?

How do you catch a cold?

The average American has 1 to 3 colds per year and it results in more than 22 million days of missed school and an even greater number of absent days from work every year in the United States.

The common cold is a viral upper respiratory infection (URI)that affects the "upper" parts of our breathing system, which includes the nose, throat, and parts of the lungs.(respiratory tract). Colds are made up of many different viruses and are spread through mucous secretions by an infected person. Your child can catch a cold if they come in contact with these secretions by being "splashed" by the tiny droplets that come out when an infected person sneezes or coughs, or if they touch a contaminated surface (hand, table, door knob, etc) and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth.

What are the symptoms?

In children, the common cold is often more severe than it is in adults and typically lasts longer. Children can develop:

  • Fever
  • Congestion/sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Cough

For young children, like infants and toddlers, it can be hard to tell if they have any of these symptoms since they can not express how they are feeling. Sometimes, your first sign of a fever is that your child seems more irritable and fussy than normal. They also may have a decrease in their appetite, sleep more than they usually do, and may or may not be warm to touch. This is your signal to take their temperature and see if they are coming down with something.

Do common colds need treatment ?

The infection is usually mild and improves without treatment. Colds usually get better within one or two weeks, however, even mild symptoms can make children feel miserable.

For children under 6 months of age, please contact your child’s primary care office before treating them with over the counter medication. Your child’s provider will let you know if it's ok to treat your child at home or if they should see a health care provider urgently. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen are safe for infants 6 months of age and older, and can help bring down a fever and soothe your child’s sore throat (reminder to never give aspirin to a child). It is tempting to want to give cold medicine to your ailing child, but this should be avoided in children under 6 years of age due to the safety risk. Instead, try a saline nasal spray to help your stuffy little one breath again.

Medications can be helpful, but how much and which ones to use depend on your child’s age and weight. When in doubt, speak with your child’s doctor’s office to see what medication you should give and the appropriate dose.

When should I contact my kid’s doctor ?

Contact your child’s doctor’s office if your child

  • Is younger than 3 months old
  • Has any fever and is an infant 3-6 months old
  • Has asthma or any other chronic health problem,
  • Has a fever over 104 degrees for more than 2-3 days in a row in any age child
  • Has a fever of any degree for 5 or more days in a row in any age child
  • Has been unwell for more than 2 weeks and is not getting any better

How can I prevent my child from getting a cold?

Going to a friend or relatives house who has a cold and don’t want it passed to your child? The germs that cause the common cold can live on tables, door handles, and other surfaces for at least 2 hours. The most important thing you can do is to wash both you and your child’s hands often with soap and water. Alcohol hand rubs work well too and are a great portable option. You never know when you might be touching germs, making it important to clean your hands often.
Have more questions about your child's health? Reach out to our team via our app, or come in for a visit to discuss anything that’s on your mind.

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Ima Nabiuny, One Medical Provider
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The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. The One Medical Group entities and 1Life Healthcare, Inc. make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.