Winter means children will get the common cold (viral upper respiratory infections) more frequently, even two times a month on average. A viral cold often lasts seven to 10 days with the first few days of tiredness and fever (greater than 100.4 degrees F). The typical cold symptoms are runny nose, scratchy throat, and cough. After two to three days the fever should resolve. Often the fatigue decreases too.
Then by day four or five, a period of “clearing'” the congestion happens as it “breaks up.” So a wetter cough and a lot of blowing into tissues starts. The mucous may be thicker at this point. Each day the child should improve and be back to normal by day 10 to 14.
What can parents do to prevent and to care for these illnesses?
- To prevent the most severe member of the cold family, the flu, get a flu shot.
- Always offer a healthy diet with plenty of Vitamin C during the winter. Practice good hand washing, and encourage children to cough into a sleeve instead of their hands. This helps to decrease germ transmission. Children also need plenty of sleep.
- Purchase a thermometer and keep it in working order. Have on hand some Tylenol, to use according to the directions on the bottle or by your doctor. (Remember, no aspirin for children!)
- A cool air humidifier helps keep the congestion loose. Remember to keep the humidifier clean.
- Over the counter cold medicines (antihistamines, decongestants and cough suppressants) are not recommended for under two years of age unless your doctor makes an exception. These cold medicines do not cure the cold.
- Keep the child upright as much as possible. This helps them handle the congestion. Raise the head of the bed at night. Keep the nasal passages cleared by using a nasal suction bulb for babies and young toddlers. Try to teach your toddlers to blow their noses into tissues instead of letting them sniffle. Keep tissues readily available.
- Important, if your child is under three months of age and has a fever you must call the doctor immediately. If your child is under two years of age and has a fever you should call your doctor for advice. If a fever lasts more than two to three days in an older child (greater than 2 years of age) then call the doctor.
- If your child of any age has a high fever, trouble breathing, trouble feeding, or has pain then you need to phone the doctor or emergency care office.
Remember to give your child loving care during their illness. See to their comfort with cuddling, reading books, sipping water, spooning in chicken noodle soup with plenty of tissues nearby!