A Cold is an infection of the nose, throat, sinuses and upper airways. Colds are caused by a virus and it is easy to pass a cold from one person to another. A child may have as many as six to 10 or more colds a year – most clustered in the winter months.

Since a virus causes a cold, there is no medicine that can cure a cold. Antibiotics do not help and could do harm. A cold usually goes away on its own in 7 to 10 days. A cough may last 2 to 3 weeks.

Drafts and air conditioning do not cause colds.  Good hand washing practices are your best way of preventing virus exposure


Symptoms vary depending on the virus. Your child may have one or several of the following:

  • Being tired
  • Aches and pains
  • A runny or congested nose
  • A sore throat
  • Weepy eyes
  • A cough
  • Fever (temperature over 100.4 F)
  • Vomiting and loose stools (more likely in small children)

What you can do for your child:

  • Give lots of cool, clear liquids so that he does not get dehydrated
  • Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) for fever. Follow directions on box carefully
  • Keep him at home until the fever is gone
  • Treat your baby’s stuffy nose with salt-water drops and a bulb syringe
  • Antihistamines and cold medicines should not be used for children under 6 years of age without a consultation with the doctor
  • Coughing clears your child’s chest and helps prevent pneumonia. Do not use cough medicine for all colds. Talk to the doctor before using any over the counter remedies for your child.

When to call the Doctor:

Call 911 right away if your child:

  • Is so lethargic that he hardly responds to you
  • Is working very hard to breathe or finds it hard to take a breath
  • Has chest retractions (skin pulling in around the ribs and chest when breathing)
  • Grunts when he breathes
  • Has a blue or dark purple color to the nail beds, lips or gums
  • Stops breathing for more than 5 seconds
  • Cannot speak while trying to breathe

Call your doctor if:

  • Your child has persistant irritability but is still responsive
  • Your child wheezes or breathes harder than he did when he was seen by the doctor
  • Your baby is unable to breathe and suck at the same time or chokes when he sucks
  • Your child has fast, shallow breathing
  • Your child has a tight feeling in the chest
  • He does not smile or play for even a few minutes every four hours
  • You see signs of dehydration:
    • No urine for six to eight hours in an infant younger than one year old
    • No urine in more than eight hours in a child older than one year old
    • No tears when crying
    • Sunken eyes
    • Dry lips and mouth pulls at his ears or shows signs of ear pain
  • You see bloody saliva, phlegm or mucus
  • Your child is not better or has a feeling of tiredness and weakness after three days
  • You have any questions or concerns about how your child looks or feels

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