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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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Children and Colds

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Is your child sneezing, coughing, and complaining about a sore throat? There's not a parent on the planet who hasn't been there. Find out how to keep those cold symptoms in check and prevent your kid from getting sick the next time.

What Is a Cold?

More than 200 different viruses can cause this infection, but the rhinovirus is the most common culprit. Antibiotics, which fight bacteria, won't treat your child's cold.

Except in newborns, colds in healthy children aren't dangerous. They usually go away in 4 to 10 days without treatment.

What to Expect

When your child gets a cold, it starts when he has a general feeling of not being well, often followed by a sore throat.

At the beginning, the sore throat is due to a buildup of mucus. Later, your child may get a postnasal drip -- when the mucus runs down the back of his nose to the throat.

As your child's cold gets worse, he may wake up with symptoms like these:

A cold virus can affect your child's sinuses, throat, bronchial tubes, and ears. He may also have diarrhea and vomiting.

At first your child may be irritable and complain of a headache and feeling stuffed up. After a while, the mucus coming out of his nose may turn darker and thicker.

How Many Colds Will My Child Get?

Kids who are preschool age have around nine colds a year, while kindergartners can have 12 a year. Adolescents and adults get about two to four a year.

Cold season runs from September until March or April, so children usually get sick most often during these months.

How Can I Prevent My Kid From Catching One?

Your child can get sick when someone who's got a cold touches an object that's later touched by your child. Door handles, stair railings, books, pens, video game remotes, and a computer keyboard are some common "carriers" of cold viruses. They can live on one of those objects for several hours.

Washing hands is the best defense. Teach your child to do it after every bathroom trip, before every meal, and after playing at school or at home.

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