A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Kid care for colds

Nothing can dull holiday joy and happiness for your child like the common cold.

Mom reading to daughter

Sara Kelley of Laona, WI reads to her daughter, Wanda.

Children experiencing cold symptoms, including runny nose, sore throat, sneezing and coughing, seems like a given at some point during the winter and especially during holidays.

“Common cold symptoms can last up to two weeks,” said Marshfield Clinic Pediatrician Dr. Kathryn Schaus. “If your child hasn’t had a fever for 24 hours and feels OK, he or she can return to regular activities at school and play.”

Care My Way® gives quick treatment for common conditions like upper respiratory infections. Download the app to get started.

Ease congestion

  • Use a cool-mist vaporizer to loosen mucus. Clean the vaporizer often to help prevent mold growth.
  • Try over-the-counter saline nasal sprays. These are not the same as nasal decongestant sprays, which may make symptoms worse.
  • Use a bulb syringe to clear the nose of a child too young to blow his or her nose. Wash the bulb syringe often in hot, soapy water and drain all water before using again.

Soothe a sore throat

  • Offer liquids such as water, frozen juice bars or ice chips to keep the throat moist and reduce pain.
  • Give children ages 4 or older throat drops or lozenges to keep the throat moist and soothe pain.
  • Give ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve pain. Never give aspirin to a child under age 18 who has a cold or flu.

Before you medicate

Cold and cough medications should not be used for children under age 6, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. These medications do not work on young children and may cause harmful side effects.

Quiet a cough

  • Serve warm fluids such as soup to help loosen mucus.
  • Use a cool-mist vaporizer to ease croup, a dry, barking cough.
  • Use cough medication for children age 6 or older only if advised by your child’s doctor.

Prevent colds

  • Teach children to wash their hands often—before eating and after using the bathroom, playing with animals or coughing and sneezing. Follow this hand washing advice. Carry an alcohol-based hand gel with at least 60 percent alcohol for times when soap and water aren’t available.
  • Remind children not to touch their eyes, nose and mouth.

When to call the doctor

Call the doctor’s office if your otherwise healthy child has any of these signs or symptoms:

  • In an infant under 3 months old, a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher.
  • In a child of any age with a temperature that rises more than once to 104°F (40°C) or higher.
  • A fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under age 2 or for three days in a child age 2 or older.
  • A seizure caused by fever.
  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath.
  • A stiff neck or headache.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Persistent brown, green or bloody mucus.
  • Signs of dehydration which include severe thirst, dark yellow urine, infrequent urination, dull or sunken eyes, dry skin and dry or cracked lips.
  • Your child still doesn’t look right to you, even after taking a non-aspirin pain reliever.

With some gentle love, pampering and following these tips, your youngster can be back on track to fun in no time.

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