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The Common Cold

By Mara P. Paradis, M.D.

The Common Cold image

The common cold is probably the most common ailment that will affect your child as he/she grows up. Children have an estimated 6-8 colds per year. Transmission usually occurs through direct or indirect contact with nasal secretions. Symptoms may include fever, congestions, runny nose, cough and sore throat. Symptoms will usually last 7-10 days. Fevers generally occur during the first 1-3 days of illness. In most cases, the mucus starts clear, may turn yellow-green and around days 3-6, and then starts to clear again around days 7-10.

The best treatment for young infants and children with a cold is nasal saline. Placing a few drops of his salt water solution in your child’s nose several times a day will help to clear the nasal passages, allowing for better feeding and more restful sleep. Running a cool mist humidifier is also helpful.

Ear infections are a common complication of colds. Approximately 80% of children will have at least one ear infection by the time they are 3 years old. How will you know if your child has an ear infection? Ear infections are often signified by an acute change in symptoms. For example, mild congestion for 2-3 days, then the sudden onset of fever, irritability and poor sleep. Some children, however, can have minimal symptoms of an ear infections, so if you have any concerns, contact your child’s physician.

Sinus infections can be difficult to diagnose in young children. Often times, the diagnosis is based on length of symptoms. If your child has “cold symptoms” lasting longer than two weeks, most pediatricians will consider the possibility of a sinus infection. The diagnosis becomes easier in older children as they are better able to describe their symptoms.

The majority of cold viruses and their secondary complications involve the upper airway. However, it is important for parents to be able to recognize respiratory symptoms involving the lower airway. Often times, lower airway involvement is signified by very poor feeding and fast or labored breathing. If you have any concerns about your child’s breathing, contact your child’s physician right away.

Good hand-washing is the key to preventing respiratory infections in both children and adults. Make sure that everyone in the family is washing their hands several times a day and keep your hand sanitizer readily available for when you are our in public.​