First Aid: Common Cold
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
- 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
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