The Common Cold 

A "common cold" is also known as an upper respiratory infection. In the first 2 years of life, most children will have 8-10 colds. Children in daycare or any other group care will likely have even more colds. Colds are caused by viruses. A virus cannot be treated with antibiotics. Instead, the body gets rid of the virus on its own. Most colds come and go by themselves and do not lead to anything worse. 

How are colds spread?

Viruses which cause colds can be spread directly or indirectly. For example, a cough or a sneeze can directly transfer a cold virus from one child to another. When someone is sick with a cold they may cough or sneeze into their hands, the virus is then on their hands and they can transmit the virus to others . Good hand washing is important prevent the spread of infection. 

What are signs and symptoms of a cold?

Colds run a course of approximately 10 - 14 days

  • Runny nose - nasal drainage may range from clear and watery to thick and colored (yellow/green). This color change is normal with a cold.
  • Sneezing, watery eyes and nasal stuffiness
  • Sore throat
  • Cough- the cough is often worse at night and upon awakening.
  • Fever- the fever is usually in the beginning and may last for 2-3 days.
  • Irritability and decreased appetite 

How is the common cold treated?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold. The best you can do is make your child comfortable.

  • Nasal saline - Nasal saline drops relief a stuffy nose and thin nasal discharge for all ages. Nasal saline may be used as often as necessary. For infants, using a rubber suction bulb with the nasal saline works best. Place a few drops of the nasal saline into each nostril followed by bulb suction.
  • Put a cool mist humidifier (vaporizer) in your child's room - Be sure to clean and dry the humidifier each day to prevent bacterial or mold contamination.
  • Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen (> 6 months of age) if your child is uncomfortable or has fever (temp > = 100.4)
  • Plenty of fluids - Your child may prefer clear liquids rather than milk or formula.
  • Plenty of rest 

When should I call the Pediatrician?

  • Fever persists for longer than 3 days
  • Nasal discharge and /or cough persists for longer than 10-14 days
  • Excessive irritability or sleepiness
  • Ear pain
  • Any trouble breathing
  • Lips or nails turn blue
  • Any questions or concerns 

 This page was authored by Dr. Lauren Mitchell.