Please Pass the Tissues: Kids and the Common Cold

The common cold is like a bad birthday gift that keeps on giving! And back-to-school time means colds are not far behind. But there are ways to prevent the spread of cold germs, and teaching your kids to practice good hygiene can go a long way to keeping them healthy, especially as flu season arrives. Recognizing the symptoms early, good hand washing and preventing the spread of germs are all ways to keep your entire family healthy when the common cold comes calling.

Cold Symptoms

The common cold usually begins about one to three days after a child or an adult is exposed to a cold virus. According to the Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of a common cold can include the following:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Itchy or sore throat
  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Slight body aches or a mild headache
  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Low-grade fever
  • Mild fatigue

The discharge from your child’s nose may become thicker and greener in color as the cold runs its course. The biggest difference between a cold and other types of illness is that it does not usually cause a high fever or significant fatigue. Children do not need to see their pediatrician for a cold unless they are experiencing ear pain, high fevers or other symptoms. The Mayo Clinic recommends the following guidelines for determining if your child needs to see a doctor:

  • Fever of 100.4 F (38 C) in newborns up to 12 weeks
  • Fever that rises repeatedly above 104 F (40 C) in a child of any age
  • Signs of dehydration, such as urinating less often than usual
  • Not drinking adequate fluids
  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child younger than 2
  • Fever that lasts more than three days in a child older than 2
  • Vomiting or abdominal pain
  • Unusual sleepiness
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent crying
  • Ear pain
  • Persistent cough

Cold Remedies

Colds are not treated with antibiotics, and using antibiotics too frequently or for the wrong reasons can increase the number of drug resistant germs. Even though you want your child to get better quickly, the common cold just has to run its course. But there are things you can do to make your child more comfortable while her immune system does its job. Use acetaminophen and ibuprofen according to package directions and based on your child’s weight and age for general discomfort and low-grade fevers. Never give aspirin to a child under the age of 12; and teens under the age of 19 should not take aspirin or aspirin-containing products for viral illnesses as it increases their risk of developing Reye syndrome.

The Kidshealth website recommends the following to ease the symptoms of the common cold in children:

  • Saline nasal sprays or drops help relieve nasal congestion
  • Cool mist humidifier to moisturize the air
  • Petroleum jelly under the nose to protect and soothe the skin
  • Cough drops or hard candy can relieve sore throat pain
  • Warm baths or steamy showers to help with chest congestion

Cold symptoms typically last for about a week and your child is contagious for the first three days she has symptoms. During this time it is important to keep your child at home as much as possible and to make sure she gets plenty of rest. This will help your child feel better sooner and recover completely in a timely way.

Cold Prevention

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the best way to prevent the spread of the common cold is by thorough hand washing. Cold viruses live on your hands and washing them thoroughly and often and keeping them away from the eyes and nose can prevent the spread of infection. Cold viruses can live for up to three hours on your skin and on the surfaces in your home and school. Disinfecting telephone key pads, computer keyboards, stair railings and door knobs with products that kill viruses can help prevent the spread of the common cold at home. Teaching kids to sneeze into their sleeve when a tissue is not available, wash their hands after using tissues, and flushing tissues instead of throwing them into a trashcan can also cut down on the spread of cold germs.

Preventing every cold virus from entering your home is impossible. Teaching your children how to keep germs from spreading can keep everyone healthier during cold and flu season.

 

Sandy Mitchell lives in the heart of Ohio’s wine country, where she’s a homeowner, landlord, and organic gardener. She is also a regular contributor to the Ross Feller Casey, LLP blog, where shares her advice on family safety and health issues.

 

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About Pepper

I am a single working mom, trying to raise my kid the best way I know how. Join me as I navigate my way through the jungle that is Single Mom-hood, armed with rose-colored glasses and strength of spirit. As pepper adds spice to food, so does my daughter add spice to my life. She makes life no less than…PEPPERRIFIC!

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Comments

  1. A warm shower is what my kids love and then a lil vapor rub on the chest.

  2. Good timing, we’re back in the swing of school now and my son’s had sniffles since week #1.

    His teacher keeps a big jug of hand sanitizer in the room and encourages the kids to use it often. That, I appreciate. :)

  3. Preschool and all the kiddos getting sick is a tough time. Great tips.

  4. Thanks for this post. It would definitely help. Winter is just around the corner and the allergies and colds are already spreading like crazy. I know it’s been in my house the last few weeks so I could only imagine it continuing to circulate!

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