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Children and Colds


How Can I Prevent My Children From Catching Colds? continued...

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.

How Are Colds in Children Treated?

Colds are self-limiting. They usually go away on their own without special medical treatment. Home treatments include the following:

  • Making sure your child gets plenty of rest.
  • Giving your child plenty of liquids.
  • Using a humidifier in your child's bedroom at night. The humid environment will help to keep your child's nose and chest clear, making it easier to breathe.
  • Using children's acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) to lower fever and reduce aches.

Do not give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms, particularly fever. Aspirin may increase the risk of Reye's syndrome, a rare disorder that occurs almost exclusively in children under the age of 15. It can cause severe liver and brain damage.

Talk with your health care provider before giving any child under age 4 an over-the-counter cold or flu medicine. In very young children with congestion, you can use a nasal bulb to gently remove mucus. You may also spray three drops of saline nasal spray into each nostril.

Remember! Antibiotics do not work in treating a cold. Antibiotics kill bacterial infections, but colds are caused by viruses, not bacteria.

Are Cold Medicines Safe for Children?

In October 2007, an FDA advisory panel recommended that no cold or cough medicines be used in children under 6. However, the FDA and manufacturers now say that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under 4. The cold medicines in question include four different categories of drugs:

  • Cough suppressants (dextromethorphan or DM)
  • Cough expectorants (guaifenesin)
  • Decongestants (pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine)
  • Antihistamines (such as brompheniramine, chlorpheniramine maleate, diphenhydramine [Benadryl] and others)

You might not recognize these drugs by name. But they are the active ingredients in many brands of kids’ cold and cough medicines.

WebMD Medical Reference

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