little boy with a common cold

How to Treat a Common Cold in a Child?

What do you do when your child isn’t feeling well? How do you treat the common cold?

Colds can often be treated at home, leaving your child feeling better and back to their daily routine rather quickly. Let’s take a look at how you treat a common cold — and when you should contact the pediatrician.

What is a Common Cold?

A common cold is a generalized way of referring to an illness caused by various viruses. More often than not, they result in an infection of the upper respiratory system.

Colds can be transmitted from one person to the next. This spread usually results from direct contact with either an infected person or the virus itself. For instance, it may be inhaled from the air if in close proximity to someone contagious. Or, it may be picked up from a contaminated surface and then transferred to the body by touching the eyes, nose, or mouth.

Kids spend a lot of time with other kids. It should be no surprise that they will often end up with multiple colds throughout the year. Most will last about a week, with the worst of it around days three and four before it starts getting better. Don’t be surprised if some symptoms, such as a cough, last much longer.

Symptoms of a Common Cold

The symptoms of a common cold will vary with each one — and for each child. However, a few of those that are most frequently experienced by kids of all ages include:

  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Ear ache
  • Headache
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tiredness

Fevers may be present, but they are not overly experienced with the common cold. If your child does have a fever, it will likely be rather mild and won’t stick around very long.

Keep in mind that kids can become cranky and irritable when dealing with the symptoms of a cold, especially if they are unable to voice how or what they are feeling.

Treating the Common Cold at Home

So, what can you do if your little one has a cold?

Stay hydrated. Your little one may not be interested in eating or drinking when they don’t feel good, but staying hydrated is so important. Ensure they get plenty of fluids, such as water, electrolyte solutions, soup broth, juice, or the like.

Rest up. Resting is so important for feeling better when treating the common cold at home. Although it may be tough to keep some little ones down, you can still keep their routine a bit relaxed and stay home as much as possible.

Use honey. Honey is an easy way to soothe a cough at home, but only for those who are over a year old.

Saline spray. If your child is old enough, saline sprays can help reduce nasal congestion. Just be sure that it is strictly saline and not an over-the-counter medicated decongestant.

Pain relievers. Speaking of over-the-counter medicine, pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen work well to reduce aches, pains, and fevers associated with the common cold. Be careful to read the directions for proper dosing.

Cold medicines. There are many different options for cold medicines on the market. Choose cautiously for your child’s age and symptoms. Note that this type of medication should never be given to a child under 6 years of age.

When to See the Pediatrician

Many parents choose to treat ordinary common colds at home. If you encounter any of the following, it is time to reach out to your child’s pediatrician right away.

  • A fever that lasts for more than 4 or 5 days
  • A fever that is over 104 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fast or rapid breathing

Or, if your child is showing any signs of dehydration, take action. Common colds come and go, but knowing how to properly care for your child through it is so important for the health of your little one.

Advocare Haddon Pediatric Group is a highly experienced team of pediatricians serving patients from birth through college. They have been an established leader in pediatrics for decades in the Haddon Heights and Mullica Hill areas of New Jersey.