Colds are caused by viruses, so there generally are no antibiotic treatments needed. Sometimes, a secondary infection such as an ear infection develops, but usually the illness runs its course in one to two weeks.
Any associated fever is typically in the beginning and resolves within two to three days.
Coughs usually peak between days three and five. A cough is the body’s natural way of clearing mucous from the lungs.
Cold and cough medicines are discouraged in children less than 6 years old and have limited benefit at any age. Here are the best things to do when a child has a cold:
- Hydrate – Water, electrolyte drinks, and clear broth are best to keep mucous thin.
- Rest – Plenty of sleep is the best boost for the immune system.
- Relieve pain – Children between 2 and 6 months should only take acetaminophen. Children older than 6 months can have either acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Children should not take aspirin due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome. Lozenges may help sore throats and coughs in older children but should not be given to young children who may choke on them.
- Soothe congestion – Over-the-counter saline nasal drops can loosen mucous and relieve stuffy noses. Children over the age of 1 can try warm juice or tea with honey.
- Be cautious with over-the-counter cold and cough medications – Decongestants and antihistamines have limited benefit for children older than 6. They will not make a cold go away any faster but may aid with sleep and comfort. Take medications only as directed. Some products have multiple ingredients, and every year there are many errors made such as given plain acetaminophen along with a cold medicine containing acetaminophen because this can be dangerous to the liver.
Be careful with herbal remedies. There is no solid evidence that vitamin C, echinacea, or zinc make much difference when fighting colds.
Our integrated Children’s Health network ensures a continuum of care for your little one. What does that mean? Well, it means our providers share an electronic records system, ensuring the provider caring for your child has your little one’s medical history and most current information at their fingertips.