The common cold is the number one cause for children missing school and having to see the doctor. Symptoms of common colds in children include snuffles, sneezes, sore throat, and coughing and are something that our kids will get, no matter what. On average, colds in children happen around eight times a year although this figure will rise if they have a weaker immune system.
Most colds are caused from invisible droplets in the air we breathe or on items we touch. They are called rhino viruses. The lining of the nose can only do so much to protect the nose and throat. More than one hundred different viruses can get into the protective lining of the nose and throat and cause a cold. That triggers sore throats, headaches, and makes it difficult for your youngster to breathe through their nose.
You may be surprised to learn that if the air is dry, either inside or out, it can lower your child’s immune system to the viruses that cause common colds. Children who live in a house with a tobacco user are also quicker to catch a common cold virus, and it generally lasts longer. Occasionally it will lead to pneumonia or bronchitis.
There are some old wives tales that tell you not to go outside with wet hair, sleep in a draft or under a fan, and not wearing a jacket or sweater will cause colds. Those are just not true since it is viruses that cause colds!
The first sign your child may be coming down with a cold is if they start complaining about a tickly throat. That normally leads to a runny, stuffy nose, sneezing, and a cough. Other symptoms children will have when they have a cold are fever, muscle aches, weariness, and loss of appetite. The runny nose can turn from running clear and watery to being thick yellow or green.
Colds are contagious particularly in the first two to four days after the first symptoms appear. Your child can stay contagious for up to three weeks. The common cold virus is spread through particles that are put in the air by sneezing or coughing, and by touching the eyes, nose or mouth after touching an infected surface.
Is there an effective way to prevent colds? There are not any vaccines to protect our children from catching cold, so there are a few other tips that can help children stay healthier.
First, try to stay away from anyone who has a cold. Also, stay away from smokers. Secondhand smoke can make it easier for your child to get sick, and virus particles can travel up to twelve feet when someone coughs or sneezes.
Wash their hands often. Teach them to wash hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose into a tissue. Some preschools and schools are using waterless soap and disinfectant for use when a child has used a tissue. Speaking of tissues, tell your child not to pick up a used tissue!
Do not let your child use the same towel or somebody else’s cutleries if they have a cold. Drinking from the same glass, bottle, or can is something else that they should learn not to do. They do not know if the person they are drinking or eating after is in the early or even the late stages of a cold. Either way, they could still be contagious.
Most colds clear up after a week although some can hang on for up to two weeks. There Is not a cure for the common cold and there is no medicine that can cure it either. For all the medical advances made in the last few years, it is still a mystery as to what will cure the cold. Beware of some over-the-counter medicines as they have side effects and never use them for a child under two without checking with their doctor.
Some easy and natural ways to ease the symptoms of your child’s cold are:
- Saline nose drops – These can be purchased at any pharmacy and will help to relieve nasal congestion.
- Use a cool air humidifier to increase moisture in the air.
- Putting petroleum jelly under the nose will help to relieve the rawness from running and wiping the nose.
- Give your child a warm bath to ease aches and pains.
- Use steam from a hot shower to help your child breathe easier.
Make sure your child eats when he or she is hungry and keep plenty of fluids handy. Caffeinated beverages should not be given to a child that has a common cold because it will increase the need to urinate and contribute to dehydration.