The Common Cold in Children


The common cold or what is also known as upper respiratory infection, is one of the most common ailments in children across the world. Millions of children get this common cold nearly six to eight times a year which leads to more doctor visits and missed days from school than any other illness. 

Available data says, children attending day-care are prone to having this illness which starts from the age of 2-3 years. The prevalence of common cold in children is more in rainy and winter seasons.

Causes of common cold in children

Common coldis caused byviruseswhich irritates or inflames the lining of the nose and throat. More than 200 different viruses are responsible for common cold, although in majority of cases it is the rhinoviruses who are found to be the culprit.

Children catch a cold, when they come in close contact with an infected person. The cold virus spreads fast through air and also through direct contact with an infected person. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, some amount of the virus goes into the air. If and when a child breathes in that air, the virus will stick inside the child’s nose or what is called the nasal membrane. In case of virus spreading through direct contact, a child touches an infected person. Common cold spreads easily through children as they tend to touch their nose, mouth, and eyes frequently and then touch others. Do keep in mind that cold viruses can spread through things like toys or other play materialsthat have been touched by an infected person. 

Who are at risk for the common cold?

All children, irrespective of age, location or societal status,are at the risk of catching the common cold. Here is why –

Children have less resistance to combat the virus than their adult counterparts. The immune system in children is not strong enough to fight the germs.

Most common cold or respiratory illnesses occur in rainy and winter seasons. This is because during these seasons children are mostly indoors and surrounded with germs. In winter the humidity drops considerably thus making the passages in the nose drier putting them at greater risk for infection.

Symptoms of the common cold in children

It takes two to three days from the day of infection for symptoms to appear. Symptoms generally continue for about a week. However, in case of severe infections, symptoms may last for two weeks as well. Symptoms may vary from one child to another.

Cold symptoms in babies-

  • Sleeplessness
  • Sulkiness
  • Congestion in the nose
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever

Cold symptoms in older children-

  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Throat irritation or Sore throat
  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Cough and congestion
  • Achy muscles and bones
  • Headaches and low-grade fever
  • Watery discharge from the nose 
  • Fatigue

Diagnosed and treatment

While these are general symptoms for common cold, it is important to keep in mind that similar symptoms are common inother health problems, like flu. Do take your child for adoctor’s visitand get a proper diagnosis done by the healthcare expert.

Doctors usually diagnose common colds from the symptoms. However, common cold symptoms are often similar to bacterial infections, allergies, and health problems. Hence an expert’s opinion is critical. You can go for an experiencedpaediatrician consultant online on DocGenie.

The first thing to know about treating common cold is that there is no cure for this ailment. Children mostly recover from this condition on their own. Antibiotics are ineffective in case of viral infections;hence healthcare professionals do not prescribe them. The course of treatment includes helping ease the infected child’s symptoms until they go. 

If your child is down with common cold you canmake him/her feel better by giving the child plenty of fluids, in the form of water, electrolyte solutions, apple juice, or soup. This is important as it helps in preventing fluid loss and thwarts chances of dehydration.

Another critical thing to ensure is that your child gets plenty of rest. In order to alleviatethe nasal congestion, think of using saline nasal sprays which are safe and are available in the chemists’ shops without a prescription. Do not confuse saline nasal sprays with nasal decongestant sprays which can make the condition worse.Also, keep the infected child away from people who smoke as smoke can aggravate nose and throat irritation.

Be very careful about giving medicines to your child. Only give the ones prescribed by the doctor. Regular cough syrups available as over-the-counter (OTC) products are not safe for children. Only give your childover-the-counter (OTC) medicines when recommended by the healthcare provider.Do not give aspirin to your child unless prescribed by the doctor as it might lead to the rare but severe condition called Reye syndrome. Moreover, do not give ibuprofen to infantswho are 6 months old or younger.

Other care methods include using cool-mist humidifier in the room at night to ease breathing and keeping the child at home till there is no fever for more than a day.

Complications from common cold in children

  • Ear infections
  • Sinus infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Throat infections

Prevention of common cold in children

To help children stay healthy and combat the common cold you can do the following –

  • Be watchful to keep your child away from infected people.
  • Instil the habit of regular hand-washing from a very early age. Your child shouldknow to wash hands before eating, after using washroom, playing and/or coughing or sneezing.
  • Also take time to teach them not to touch the eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean the toys and play areas regularly.

When to call the healthcare provider

Contact your child’s healthcare in the following cases-

  • The fever goes to 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
  • Symptoms lasting for more than 10 days
  • No improvement in symptoms even after taking medicines

If you are looking for paediatrician consultant India or the best paediatric doctor in Delhi, Docgenie is the right destination for you. We have a band of highly qualified and experienced paediatricians who can offer the best care for your child.