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Children and Colds

Colds are the most common illness among children of all ages. Although this respiratory virus lasts only for a week or so, colds can make most children feel miserable. Need to know more about children and colds? Here's information you can use.

Understanding Colds

A cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. More than 200 different viruses can cause a cold, but the rhinovirus is the most common culprit. Because colds are viral infections, antibiotics, which treat bacterial infections, are not useful for treatment.

Except in newborns, colds in healthy children are not dangerous. Colds usually go away in four to 10 days without any special treatment. Because of the great number of viruses that can cause colds and because new cold viruses develop, children never build up resistance against all cold viruses.

Sometimes fatigue, stress, or the type of cold virus may cause a bacterial infection somewhere in a child's body, such as the lungs, throat, ears, or sinuses. The bacterial infection weakens the body's immune system and may require treatment with an antibiotic.

Cold Symptoms

With children, most colds begin abruptly. Your child may wake up with these symptoms:

  • Watery nasal mucus
  • Sneezing
  • Fatigue
  • Fever (sometimes)
  • Sore throat
  • Cough

Because of the postnasal drip, your child may have a sore throat and cough, symptoms that are common in children's colds. The cold virus can affect your child's sinuses, throat, bronchial tubes, and ears. With a cold, children may also have diarrhea and vomiting.

During the early stages of a cold, your child may be very irritable and complain of a headache and congestion. As the cold progresses, the mucus secretions from the sinuses may turn darker and thicker. Your child may also develop a mild cough, which could last for several days.

How Many Colds Do Children Usually Get Each Year?

Statistics show that preschool-aged children have around nine colds per year, kindergartners can have 12 colds per year, and adolescents and adults have about seven colds per year. Cold season runs from September until March or April, so children usually catch most cold viruses during these months.

How Can I Prevent My Children From Catching Colds?

The best way to prevent children from catching colds is to teach them proper hand washing. The common cold is spread mostly by hand-to-hand contact. For example, a child with a cold blows or touches his or her nose and then touches your child, who then becomes infected with the cold virus.

The common cold is also spread by infected objects that are good cold carriers, including door handles, stair railings, books, pens, video game remotes, and a computer keyboard and mouse. The common cold virus can live on objects for several hours, allowing time for your child to touch the object and then rub his or her eyes or nose.

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