Kids And Colds
My Baby Has A Cold – What Now?
One of the most common causes of illness in children is “the common cold”, an upper respiratory tract infection. Pre-school aged children average around six colds a year, barely getting over one cold before getting another infection.
The immune system in young kids is still immature and has not had time to build up immunity to the multitude of cold viruses. As they age their immunity will become stronger and they will suffer fewer colds.
What Causes A Cold?
The majority of colds are caused by viral infections, the most common being the rhinoviruses, although there are 200+ different viruses which can cause the common cold.
Because the cold is a viral infection (a virus), the only way that you can catch it is by having contact with the virus.
- Being cold and/or wet has absolutely nothing to do with catching a cold
- Although it may appear differently, winter does not cause colds either. (In winter we tend to congregate indoors making us more susceptible to the transfer of viral infections)
What Are The Symptoms Of A Cold?
Cold symptoms tend to vary from virus to virus and child to child, although they remain very similar in both children and adults.
Common Symptoms May Include:
- A blocked or runny nose
- Sore Throat
- Red Eyes
- Swollen Lymph Glands
- Fever (occasionally)
Sometimes your child may be irritable, have a reduced appetite and feel generally sick or vomit.
How Long Do Cold Symptoms Last?
Symptoms can last from a few days to over a week. It’s not common but the cold virus can lead to complications such as:
How To Treat A Cold
There is no cure, nor a specific treatment for the common cold. Make your child as comfortable as possible by treating the symptoms as they appear.
- If your child has a fever, is in pain or discomfort, you may give them the recommended dose of paracetamol to make them feel more comfortable
- It is important to give your child plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
For Children Under Six Months Old:
- For breast fed children under six months old you may give extra feeds, if your child is under six months old and formula fed, give them their usual amount of formula but give it in smaller, more frequent doses.
For Children Six To Twelve Months Old:
- For a child older than six months keep bottle/breast feeding as normal, you may also give them water to help keep them hydrated
If your child has a fever they may lose their appetite – this is fine/normal. Their appetite will return as they get better.
Rest is an important part of the healing process but there is no need to stay in bed. Let your child decide what they want to do. Normal activity is fine.
What Not To Do To Treat A Cold
Avoid the following:
- Aspirin – it can have serious side effects
- Cough medications – When your child has a cold their cough is caused by things like a buildup of mucus or irritation in the windpipe. These are conditions that cough medicines will have no effect on.
- Decongestants – Medications like Benadryl, Dimetapp, Demazin, Bisolvon, Sudafed, Robitussin and Logicin will not help with a cold and can cause side effects, including things like insomnia, jitteriness and rapid heart rate.
- Antibiotics – Remember that colds are caused by viruses, antibiotics will not have any effect
How Do Germs Spread?
- Via touching dirty hands (shaking hands etc)
- Things like changing dirty diapers
- Through contaminated food and water
- Through coughing or sneezing releasing droplets in the air
- Touching contaminated surfaces
- Having contact with a sick person’s body fluids
After initial contact with the germ you can become infected by touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Once infected you may infect others, sometimes your whole family.
How To Prevent The Spread Of Germs
Thorough hand washing is the first and best defense against the spread of illness. It is by far the most efficient method to stop the spread of germs and prevent the whole family getting sick.
Regular hand washing should be compulsory for the whole family, especially:
- Before cooking
- Before meals
- After using the bathroom
- After cleaning the house
- After touching any animals – including pets
- Before and after visiting, or caring for sick people
- After blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing
- After coming indoors from outside
Other Ways To Prevent Spreading Germs
- Don’t share linen or utensils, for example towels and cups etc with an infected person
- Try and keep your distance from an infected person and avoid body contact
- Try to keep your hands away from your eyes or mouth to prevent the virus entering your body
- Disinfect all general area surfaces such as kitchen counter tops, door knobs etc
- If you have a cold always cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
- Use tissues and dispose of them immediately (blowing your nose into a handkerchief and putting that germ filled rag into your pocket to be used again later is a seriously bad idea)
- In public places be careful touching common areas such as door knobs, escalator rails, and other surfaces that can be touched/coughed on/sneezed on by an infected person.
- Many of the viruses that cause a cold can still be infectious on indoor surfaces for up to 24 hours and may live for up to seven days
- Viruses generally survive longer on water proof surfaces like plastic and stainless steel
- The Rhinovirus (a common cold causing virus) can remain infectious on your hands for an hour or more
- Another cold like virus which can cause serious illness in children is RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus). This virus lives on work benches and door handles for up to six hours, on tissues and clothing for around 40 minutes and can live on your skin for 20 minutes or so
When Should I See The Doctor?
If Your Child:
- Has breathing difficulties
- Is less than three months old and has a fever
- Has a fever which does not come down with paracetamol/ibuprofen etc
- Will not drink fluids
- Is frequently vomiting
- Has a severe headache
- Is sleepy and pale in complexion
- Has a rash that remains even after pushing a glass on it. (The glass test)
If you don’t see improvement within a couple of days or you have any concern about anything – see your doctor.