Coughs and colds in children

Coughs and colds are usually caused by a viral infection. Normally clean on their own, and antibiotics are usually of no use. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may relieve some symptoms. Make sure the child has enough to drink.

On this page

  • What causes coughs and colds and what are the symptoms?
  • What are the treatments for cough and cold?
  • Recent research
  • What symptoms should I look for?
  • References

Most coughs and colds are caused by viruses. Many viruses can infect the nose and throat. It is spread by coughing and sneezing of airborne viruses. A middle school child pre-school and primary having 3-8 cough or colds a year. Sometimes, cough or cold several occur one after the other. A child living with smokers have a higher risk of developing coughs and colds.

  • Common symptoms are cough and runny nose. The cough is often worse at night. The cough does not damage the lungs.
  • In addition, a child may have: a high temperature (fever), sore throat, headache, fatigue and be out of your food. Sometimes children vomit after a coughing fit.
  • An accumulation of mucus behind the eardrum can cause ear pain or mild dull view.

There is no magic cure! Usually the symptoms are worse during the first 2-3 days, then ease in the coming days, as the immune system eliminates the virus. An irritating cough may persist for up to 2-4 weeks after other symptoms have disappeared. Antibiotics do not kill viruses, so they are not useful for coughs and colds.

Coughs and colds often do not need any treatment. Make sure your child has enough to drink. Dehydration (low body fluid) may develop if the child has a fever and does not drink much.

Treatment aims to relieve symptoms. Paracetamol can relieve aches and pains, headaches and fever. Ibuprofen is an alternative. Both are sold in pharmacies in liquid form for children. There are several brands – ask the pharmacist if you are unsure of what is appropriate.

A popular treatment for nasal congestion (stuffy nose) in an infant is put a few drops of saline (salt water) in the nose just before feeds. Some people believe that this helps to clear the nose for easier feeding. There is little scientific evidence as to how well this works, but it can be worth a try if power is difficult. You can buy saline drops in pharmacies.

Steam Massages are another popular treatment. They can be applied on the chest and back (avoid applying the nostril area for young children, for safety reasons). Again, there is little scientific evidence as to how well it works.

What about cold remedies and cough?

Remedies for cough or cold may be advertised and sold in pharmacies. They contain several ingredients or combinations of ingredients such as paracetamol, antihistamines, decongestants and cough remedies. However, there is no clear evidence that these remedies for cough and cold work. They can have side effects such as allergic reactions, effects on sleep or hallucinations.

In March 2009, a major statement was issued by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, saying that parents and caregivers should stop using over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines in children under 6 years. For 6-12 years old these drugs are still available (as there is less risk of side effects in older children). However, it will only be sold in pharmacies, with clearer advice on the packaging and pharmaceuticals. Note: paracetamol and ibuprofen are not classified as cough and cold and still can give children.

Zinc supplements

Previous studies of the research suggest that a mineral called zinc appears to reduce the severity of cold symptoms in healthy children. A recent review of research on zinc supplementation and the common cold found that zinc supplements can reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms when taken within 24 hours of the first symptoms of a cold. However, there are potential side effects such as nausea and unpleasant taste. The review concluded that it is still unclear whether the zinc should be recommended as a treatment for colds. See reference at the end for more information.

Vitamin C

It has also been research in search of vitamin C for the prevention or treatment of colds. A recent review found that taking vitamin C regularly does not appear to prevent colds in the normal population. However, seemed to reduce the duration and severity of symptoms. Furthermore, in trials in people exposed to short periods of extreme physical stress (eg, marathon runners and skiers), vitamin C halved the risk of developing a cold. More research is needed to answer the question of whether vitamin C can help after cold symptoms have started.

Other treatments

Echinacea (an herbal treatment) and garlic have been used traditionally to treat colds. However, recent reviews of the research found no clear evidence of whether or not they are useful.

Most coughs and colds get better without complications. Sometimes, a more severe secondary bacterial infection develops from an initial viral infection. For example, an ear infection, pneumonia, etc. Symptoms to be aware that it can mean something more than a cold include:

  • Breathing problems – wheezing, rapid breathing, noisy breathing (stridor) or difficulty breathing.
  • Being unable to swallow (this may appear as excessive drooling).
  • The drowsiness.
  • Unusual irritability or persistent crying in a baby, or the baby not taking feeds.
  • An eruption.
  • Chest pains.
  • Persistent high temperatures, especially if a baby less than three months old has a fever over 38 ° C.
  • Severe headache or persistent sore throat, earache or swollen glands.
  • A cough that persists for more than 3-4 weeks.
  • Symptoms get worse instead of better after about five days of a cold.
  • The symptoms (other than a mild cough) lasting more than ten days, especially if the child has mucus or sputum (phlegm), which is green, yellow or brown – this may indicate a bacterial infection.
  • Any symptoms that can not be explained.

See a doctor if you experience any symptoms that worry you. This is especially important if your child has a chronic disease or medical condition – for example, chest / breathing / heart problems or neurological diseases. Doctors are trained to check the older children to rule out a serious condition. They may not be able to prescribe nothing more effective for a persistent cough or cold, but a revision can be reassuring.