First Aid: Common Cold

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First Aid

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 specific type of virus found in the air and on the things we touch. The prescription for the common cold is simple: time, rest, and TLC.

Signs and Symptoms

  • stuffy or runny nose (may start out watery, then turn thick yellow or green)
  • itchy or sore throat
  • sneezing
  • cough
  • headache
  • mild fever
  • feeling tired
  • loss of appetite

What to Do

  • Ease discomfort with:
    • acetaminophen or ibuprofen as needed (check package for correct amount)
    • a cool-mist humidifier or steamy bathroom
    • saline (saltwater) drops for the nostrils
    • gentle suction of nasal mucus using a bulb syringe when necessary
  • Offer lots of fluids (breast milk or formula for babies; water and juice for older kids — but no caffeinated beverages).
  • Never give cough or cold medicine to children under 2 years old. Call a doctor first for older kids.
  • Never give aspirin to a child.

Seek 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 occurs in spasms
  • difficulty breathing
  • a high fever and appears ill; or any fever in a baby 3 months old or younger
  • a sore throat that makes eating and drinking difficult
  • a bad headache

Think Prevention!

Remind kids to:

  • avoid anyone who has a cold or smokes (secondhand smoke increases kids' risk of getting sick)
  • wash hands well and often, especially after nose-blowing and playing with other kids
  • sneeze and cough into shirtsleeves or tissues — not hands

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014



Related Resources

OrganizationAmerican College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The ACAAI is an organization of allergists-immunologists and health professionals dedicated to quality patient care. Contact them at: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
85 W. Algonquin Road
Suite 550 Arlington Heights, IL 60005
(800) 842-7777
OrganizationAllergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics (AAN-MA) Through education, advocacy, community outreach, and research, AAN-MA hopes to eliminate suffering and fatalities due to asthma and allergies. AAN-MA offers news, drug recall information, tips, and more for treating allergies and asthma. Call: (800) 878-4403
OrganizationAAP Pediatric Referral Department Use this website to find a pediatrician in your area or to find general health information for parents from birth through age 21.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.


Related Articles

Why Is Hand Washing So Important? Did you know that proper hand washing is the best way to keep from getting sick? Here's how to teach this all-important habit to your kids.
Fever and Taking Your Child's Temperature Although it can be frightening when your child's temperature rises, fever itself causes no harm and can actually be a good thing - it's often the body's way of fighting infections.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major cause of respiratory illness in young children. Learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms of this contagious infection.
Common Cold With kids getting up to eight colds a year, this contagious viral infection is the most common infectious disease in the United States and the top reason kids visit the doctor and miss school.
A Cold or Allergies: Which Is It? Find out what the experts have to say.
Cough and Cold Medicine Abuse Chugging cough medicine for an instant high isn't a new practice for teens, who have raided the medicine cabinet for a quick, cheap, and legal high for decades. Unfortunately, this dangerous, potentially deadly practice still goes on.
First Aid: Coughing Coughing is a healthy reflex that helps clear the airways. A severe or lingering cough requires medical treatment, but many coughs are caused by viruses that just need to run their course.




Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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