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Children and Colds and Croup

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.


Cold Symptoms

Most colds start with a general feeling not being well, often followed by a sore throat. At the beginning of a cold, the sore throat is a result of a buildup of mucus. Later, it may be due to post nasal drip.

As the cold progresses, sometimes seemingly overnight, your child may wake up with these symptoms:

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

A sore throat and cough, are common symptoms 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 continues to progress, the mucus secretions from the nose may turn darker and thicker. 

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.

Studies show that proper hand washing does prevent the risk of catching a cold. Teach your child to wash his or her hands after every bathroom trip, before every meal, and after playing at school or at home. The CDC recommends singing "Happy Birthday to You" twice, as that's the length of time it takes (20 seconds) to slough germs off hands while washing hands with warm soapy water.

If your child has a cold, it's still important to protect others from catching the cold. If your child shows cold symptoms, it is wise to keep your child home from school and avoid contact with other children to keep the cold from spreading. You should also encourage your child to cover his or her mouth when sneezing and to use a tissue for nose blowing. If a tissue is unavailable, teach your child to cough in his or her sleeve. Stress to children the importance of hand washing after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing to prevent spreading the virus.

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