Children can get up to eight colds per year. When your child has a cold, their symptoms can keep them miserable for weeks, causing them to miss school. While there is no cure for the common cold, knowing how to treat your child’s symptoms can have him or her feeling better quicker.

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Causes of the Common Cold

Knowing what causes a cold is key to treating, and preventing, it. Typically, a cold is caused by the rhinovirus living in droplets in the air or on things we touch every day. Once these viruses have made their way into the protective lining of the nose and throat, your child’s immune system will react, causing typical cold symptoms.


Signs and Symptoms of a Cold

If your child is suffering from the common cold, he or she will likely experience a tickle in the throat, a runny (or stuffy) nose, headache, a sore throat and muscle aches. One way to identify a cold is thick yellow or green mucus in the nose.


Are Colds Contagious?

Colds are extremely contagious, especially within the first two to four days. In fact, they are considered to be the most infectious disease in the United States. Colds can be spread for as long as a couple weeks after the initial infection.

Spread from one person to another by contact or breathing in virus particles, colds can travel up to 12 feet through the air any time someone who is sick sneezes or coughs. If your child happens to touch his or her mouth or nose after being in contact with a contaminated service, they run the risk of catching the cold.


Is It A Cold Or The Flu?

When your child starts showing signs of a cold, it is easy to worry it may be the flu. Because symptoms can be so similar, it can be difficult to tell the difference. If your child is suffering from the flu, you will notice that the onset of the illness is very sudden, whereas a cold is typically slower.

If your child has the flu, he or she will also suffer from chills, achy muscles, severe exhaustion, a decrease in appetite and a high fever. On the other hand, symptoms of a cold are much less severe, with no (or a mild) fever, no achiness or chills and a normal appetite.

There are other bacterial diseases, such as strep throat or pneumonia that can also mimic a cold or the flu. If your child is experiencing a high fever, bad headache, sore throat or confusion, it’s likely more than a cold and you should call a doctor for a proper diagnosis.


How Long Does The Common Cold Last?

Typically, symptoms of a cold will show up within two to three days of exposure. The cold will then last about four to 10 days, although some cases may last longer.


Diagnosing The Common Cold

If your child is showing signs of a cold, a doctor will usually check your child’s ears, nose and throat first. To make sure the symptoms aren’t from another condition, he or she will probably take a throat culture as well. If your child’s symptoms continue to worsen over the first three to four days, there is a chance it’s something more serious, such as strep throat, sinusitis, pneumonia or bronchitis.


Treating Cold Symptoms

While medicine can’t treat your child’s cold, it can help lessen the symptoms. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can alleviate symptoms such as muscle aches, headache and fever. It’s important to never give aspirin to children or teens.

According to the FDA, you should also avoid giving over-the-counter cough and cold medicines to any child under the age of four. This includes cough suppressants, cough expectorants, decongestants and antihistamines.

To relieve congestion, you can put saltwater drops in your child’s nostrils. Hard candy and cough drops may help your child’s sore throat. Have your child take a warm bath if he or she is complaining of muscles aches. For stuffiness, the steam from a hot shower can help.

If your child is suffering from a cold, it’s important that he or she gets sufficient rest so the body can focus on recuperating. Fluids are also essential for children who are sick, especially if they are experiencing a fever, vomiting or diarrhea. To help break up nasal and chest congestion, keep the air moist by placing a humidifier in your child’s room.

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Can You Prevent A Cold?

It’s tough to prevent your child from getting sick, especially when a classmate or friend has a cold. Because germs are spread when your child touches a contaminated door handle, book, pen, stair railing, etc., the risk of exposure is high.

Encourage your child to wash his or her hands regularly. Proper hand washing lasts about 20 seconds and includes warm, soapy water to fully get rid of the germs. Hand sanitizer can also help prevent the spreading of germs.

Also, teach your child to cover their mouth anytime they sneeze. If they need to blow their nose, try to use a tissue. Finally, your child should wash his or her hands after a cough, sneeze or nose blow.

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Do You Need To See A Doctor For A Cold?

Normally, a cold will pass within 10 days. However, in some cases, you may need to seek medical care to ensure your child continues to improve. If your child is suffering from any of the following symptoms, call 911 or go to your closest ER:

  • A fever that’s higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit lasting longer than three days
  • A cough that persists
  • Swelling of the sinuses or tonsils
  • An earache
  • Vomiting
  • Difficult breathing


We offer quick diagnosis and treatment for cold symptoms and minor illnesses at our convenient pediatric urgent care clinics all over DFW.  

Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you or your child.

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