The average child will have about 8-10 colds by the time he turns 2. Children in daycare or who have school-aged siblings can have many more.
While there is no cure for them, things can be done to help prevent colds from spreading and to ease their symptoms.
More than 200 different viruses can cause the common cold. It seems like more are discovered all the time.
These viruses are spread by sneezing and coughing.
Colds can also be spread if a child gets mucus on her hands or on a surface that another child touches and then brings to her own nose or mouth.
Symptoms of a cold include a runny nose that may start clear and then get thick and colored.
An initial fever may rise to 102 degrees (an infant under 3 months of age with one should be evaluated by a healthcare professional).
The child may complain of a sore throat and have a decreased appetite.
He may have a cough, be irritable and have mildly swollen neck glands. Most colds last for 7-10 days.
Signs that a child may have something more than a cold include respiratory distress (especially if the skin is sucking in around the ribcage), blue lips or nails, or ear pain, plus excessive sleepiness or irritability, a fever greater than 102F or a cough that persists for more than a week.
If the nasal mucus persists more than 10-14 days, the child may have something other than a cold.
While there is no cure for a cold, some relief of symptoms can be provided. Plenty of fluids and rest help children of all ages.
Using saline drops to loosen the mucus and a suction bulb to help remove it may allow kids to breathe and eat better.
A cool-mist humidifier can likewise help loosen up mucus in the nasal passages.
Acetaminophen – or ibuprofen in those age 6 months and above – may give some relief from fever or irritability.
Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines have not been shown to do much for children less than 6 years of age and should not be given to them.
The spread of colds can be minimized by coughing or sneezing away from others, especially into a tissue or a bent elbow.
Infants younger than 3 months should be kept away from those with colds. Good hand-washing also helps.
Dr. Charles Ison is a University of Kentucky graduate who has practiced in his hometown of Lexington since 1993. He is a partner in Pediatric and Adolescent Associates.