- The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. Although many types of viruses can cause a common cold, the most common are Rhinoviruses.
- Children younger than six are at greatest risk of colds, but healthy adults can also expect to have two or three colds annually.
- Most people recover from a common cold in a week or 10 days.
- A cold virus enters the body through the mouth, eyes or nose. The virus spread through droplets in the air when someone who is sick coughs, sneezes or talks. It also spreads by hand-to-hand contact with someone who has a cold or by sharing contaminated objects.
Symptoms of a common cold usually appear one to three days after exposure to the virus. Signs and symptoms might include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Slight body aches or a mild headache
- Low-grade fever
- Generally feeling unwell (malaise).
- Decreased appetite
- Slightly swollen glands
There’s no vaccine to prevent the common cold, but there are some precautions to slow the spread of cold viruses:
- Wash your hands. Thoroughly and often with soap and water, If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Disinfect your things. Clean kitchen and bathroom countertops with disinfectant, especially when someone in your family has a cold. Wash children’s toys periodically.
- Use tissues. Sneeze and cough into tissues. Discard used tissues right away, then wash your hands carefully. Teach children to sneeze or cough into the bend of their elbow when they don’t have a tissue. That way they cover their mouths without using their hands.
- Don‘t share. Don’t share drinking glasses or utensils with other family members. Use your own glass or disposable cups when you or someone else is sick. Label the cup or glass with the name of the person with the cold.
- Steer clear of colds. Avoid close contact with anyone who has a cold.
- Choose your childcare center wisely. Look for a child care setting with good hygiene practices and clear policies about keeping sick children at home.
There is not specific cure to common colds. Antibiotics may be used to combat bacterial infections, but they have no effect on viruses. Symptomatic treatment may include caring and comfort, plenty and liquids and rest.
For fever or malaise:
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used. Always ask your pediatrician before giving medicine to a child under 2 years of age, and call right away if your child is under three months of age and has a fever.
- Ibuprofen is approved for use in children six months of age and older; however, it should never be given to children who are dehydrated or who are vomiting repeatedly.
- Do not give your child aspirin, which has been linked with Reye syndrome, a rare but very serious illness that affects the liver and the brain.
- Ask the doctor for the right medicine and dose for your child’s age and weight.
For a stuffy nose:
- Nose drops or spray – Use saltwater (saline) nose drops or spray in each nostril.
- Humidifier – Place a cool-mist humidifier (vaporizer) in your child’s room to help keep nasal secretions more liquid and make your child more comfortable. Set it close to your child (but safely beyond reach) so that he or she gets the full benefit of the additional moisture. Be sure to clean and dry the humidifier thoroughly each day to prevent bacterial or mold contamination. Hot-water vaporizers are not recommended since they can cause serious scalds or burns.
For a cough:
- Do not give honey to babies under one year—it is not safe.
- For children ages 1 to 5 years: Try half a teaspoon of honey.
- For children ages 6 to 11: Try one teaspoon of honey.
- For children 12 or older: Try two teaspoons of honey.
- If honey is given at bedtime, make sure to brush your child’s teeth afterward.
(Source: AAP, Mayo Clinic)
From the AAP – “It’s important to note, though, that over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines should not be given to infants and children under two years old because of the risk of life-threatening side effects. Also, several studies show that cold and cough products don’t work in children younger than six years and can have potentially serious side effects. In addition, keep in mind that coughing clears mucus from the lower part of the respiratory tract, and ordinarily there’s no reason to suppress it.”