Home Care for the Common Cold

Unfortunately, all kids will get an upper respiratory infection (common cold) at some point. Thankfully, there are quite a few things parents can do at home to help support their child’s recovery from these illnesses and alleviate their symptoms.  Below are some tips to help your child feel better!

What are the symptoms of the common cold?

  • Runny Nose or Congested Nose
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stomach ache
  • Fatigue/Malaise (overall not feeling well)
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fussiness/irritability in young children

When should I bring my child to the doctor?

We always want you to bring your child in if you are concerned; we don’t want you to worry about your child at home, we are here for you.  After Hours Kids is open 7 nights a week from 6:30-10:30.

It is less concerning If your ill child is active and playful than if they are lethargic, irritable, and not acting themselves.  Often, you can treat the child at home if they have familiar and mild symptoms. If they are progressively getting worse, have symptoms longer than 7-10 days, or you are concerned, it is important to schedule a visit.

What is a fever and why does my child have one?

A fever is one of the body’s ways to fight infection. Raising the body’s temperature helps kill off viruses and bacteria. A fever is a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees. If your child has a fever for greater than 3 days, they are very lethargic, or their fever is very high and does not decrease with medication, we recommend you call your child’s provider.  Remember that body temperature naturally rises as night; this is why fevers are often highest at night. Also, it is important to remember that fever reducers (acetaminophen and Ibuprofen) will often not return a temperature to normal, but will only lower the temperature 1-2 degrees.

What can I do at home to help my child?

Encourage your child to drink lots of fluids. We expect appetite to decrease when a child is ill, but we do want to make sure they are staying hydrated. Fever and coughing can cause your child to lose more fluid than normal. Increasing fluids can help offset this, and it can help thin nasal congestion as well. Encourage your child to get more rest than usual.

Additional ways to help with nasal congestion include saline sprays in the nose.  In young children, use the spray and then suction out the nose after. A humidifier in your child’s room at night can also ease congestion and help relieve symptoms.

Unfortunately, over the counter cold medications are not safe to give young children;  they are also not usually very effective. Do not use any cold medications in children under 4 years old unless specifically told by your provider. Talk to your provider before giving anything to children from 4-6 years old.  

Tylenol and ibuprofen can be used for pain and fever and often help young children feel better if they are febrile. Be sure to not give ibuprofen to infants younger than 6 months and talk to your provider about the proper dosage for your child. The most accurate dosing is done by their weight. Never give your child aspirin.

It is very important to keep your child home until they have been fever free for at least 24 hours, in an attempt to not spread their illness. Children share germs very easily. Also, encourage frequent handwashing for everyone in your household to help prevent the spread of illness.

Does my child need antibiotics to get better?

Most colds are caused by viruses, which means there is not a medication we can give to fight the infection. Antibiotics will help if your child has a bacterial infection, but will not help with a viral upper respiratory infection (cold). If your child has been sick, seems to be improving, and then worsens again (fever or worsening symptoms), let your child’s provider know, as this could be a sign of a secondary infection. Sometimes, an ear infection, sinus infection, or pneumonia can develop after a viral upper respiratory infection, so it is important to be seen by the provider