First Aid: Common Cold
Kids can get eight colds a year — or more. The common cold sends more kids to the doctor than any other illness. Most colds are caused by a found in the air and on the things we touch. Antibiotics can't treat viruses, but you can help your child feel better.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of a Cold?
- stuffy or runny nose (may start out watery, then turn thick yellow or green)
- itchy or sore throat
- mild fever
- feeling tired
- eating less
What to Do
- Ease discomfort with:
- acetaminophen or ibuprofen as needed if your child is older than 6 months
- a cool-mist humidifier or steamy bathroom
- saline (saltwater) drops for a congested nose
- gentle suction of nasal mucus using a bulb syringe when necessary
- Offer lots of liquids — breast milk or formula for babies; water and diluted juice for older kids, but no caffeinated beverages.
- Never give cough or cold medicine to children under 6 years old. Call a doctor first for older kids.
- Never give aspirin to a child.
Get Medical Care if Your Child Has:
- cold symptoms that get worse or last more than a week
- cough and congestion triggered by pollen, dust, pets, etc.
- a barking cough or a cough that is severe and happens in spasms
- trouble breathing
- a high fever and appears ill; or any fever in a baby 3 months old or younger
- a sore throat that makes it hard to eat and drink
- a bad headache
Remind kids to:
- avoid anyone who has a cold
- avoid smokers (secondhand smoke increases kids' risk of getting sick)
- wash their hands well and often, especially after nose-blowing and playing with other kids
- sneeze and cough into shirtsleeves or tissues — not hands
Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: May 2018
- How to Handle a Cough
- Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
- Cough and Cold Medicine Abuse
- Fever (High Temperature) In Kids
- Hand Washing: Why It's So Important
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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