Get Adobe Flash player

HomeSite MapSubject IndexFeedbackBuy The Book!  

Common ColdBack Next
Part 4 as Part 4 in pdf formatpdf
Part 4: Keeping Your Child Healthy  >  The A-Z of Childhood Illnesses  >  Common Cold


Colds are very common. Some children can become very restless with a cold. So we shall discuss the subject at length.

But before we do that, please note:

  • No antibiotic helps in common cold because it is a viral infection.
  • Drugs containing phenylpropanolamine and antihistamines (anti-allergy medicines) are harmful in common cold.
  • Opening of the nasal passage is all that is needed if the nose gets blocked.

Accept Cold As An Unavoidable Nuisance
Many different viruses (over 200) can give rise to colds. If your child is exposed to one today, he may get a cold due to another virus after a month or two. In this process, he may have developed immunity against the first virus. Thus, your child, through the half dozen or more colds he may get per year, develops immunity against some of these infective agents. That is why some people like to refer to the nuisance of colds as a lifelong insurance for the future. Colds become less frequent after the age of 2 to 3 years.

However, colds can cause discomfort to a child, especially a smaller baby below the age of 2 months. If his nose gets blocked because of a cold, he will find it difficult to suckle. As he is not used to breathing through the mouth, he will become restless if the nose is blocked, even if he is not feeding. In such cases, urgent steps, as discussed hereafter, are to be taken to clear the nasal passage.

In infants below 2 months, the cold may, more rarely, be due to a bacterial infection. The baby may also have high fever. Such infants may need antibiotics. When the cold is accompanied by fever, paracetamol, as discussed in the section of fever (in the chapter on Home Remedies) can be used.

In the first few weeks, the baby may have little mucus-like secretion in the nose. You may notice bubbles in his nose as he breathes. It does not cause any problem, but if you feel that the baby has difficulty feeding, you may consider cleaning the nose as described below.

A running nose can also be due to allergy. As with the common cold, the child has a thin watery discharge from the nose. In both, the onset is marked by a few sneezes. But in an allergy, the sneezing becomes persistent unless the agent that caused the allergy is removed or antihistamines are given. Allergic ‘cold’ is also seen most often during certain seasons of the year, or on getting up in the morning (due to an allergen in the bedroom) or when the child is exposed to the agent causing the allergy. 

A constant watery discharge from the nose, throughout the month, is likely to be due to allergy. Typically, the cough due to a cold is noticed during sleep. If the child is lying on his back, the watery discharge from the back of his nose drips down the throat. Nature does not want this stuff to go into the windpipe and a protective mechanism makes the child cough with the post-nasal drip. Such a child will sleep better on his stomach (however, making a small infant sleep on his stomach is not considered safe).

Taking Care Of A Blocked Nose

If the nose is not too blocked, your child, especially if he is older, may not be bothered. Otherwise, a blocked nose needs help. The best tool for this is a rubber syringe (also called a nose cleaner), available at most departmental stores and chemists. It consists of a rubber bulb, shaped like an ancient rubber horn. To this is attached a nozzle which can also be boiled. To use it, press the rubber bulb, keep it pressed, put the nozzle’s tip into the baby’s nose, and then release the bulb. The mucus gets sucked into the nozzle. Clean the nozzle. Boil it before using it again. If this tool is not available, you can also use a 5 or 10 ml. syringe without a needle for the same purpose.

If the nose still appears blocked, use saline nose drops. These can be prepared at home. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt to a glass of warm water (about 200 ml.). To use these drops effectively, let your child lie down. Turn his head to one side — say the right side. Put 2 drops into the right nostril. Let the head be kept on the same side for a minute or two. Then repeat the same procedure for the left side. Instead of a dropper, you can also make a cotton wick. Dip it into this water-salt solution. Roll the wick inside the child’s nostril to clear the mucus and to open the nose. If the tip of the wick touches the back of the nose, he may also sneeze, expelling some of the mucus.

Cleaning the nose is specially needed before sleep and before feeding a baby. Though saline drops are the safest, even these should be avoided unless the blocked nose is bothering the child. Take recourse to readymade nose drops only if the saline nose drops are not helping, and the child is in real discomfort. But make sure that you buy those that are meant strictly for use in children. Generally, these nose drops are to be avoided because, after opening the nasal passage for a while, they cause increased congestion due to what is called a rebound phenomenon.

There are also medicines — oral decongestants — to open the blocked nose. Avoid these as they may have side effects.

Sometimes, a humid atmosphere can be helpful. If you have a hot water shower in your bathroom, turn it on for about 15 minutes, at the hottest setting. Keep the child with you, at a distance from the shower.

Do not apply a vaporub to the nose or on the chest. Some children get a rash with it. Others may have a shock-like reaction if the medicine is applied directly to the nose. Petroleum jelly or Vaseline may be applied to the outer edge of nostrils chapped by repeated blowing and wiping. 

If the child has a thick secretion blocking the nostril, take a wick of cotton, moisten it in the saline water as mentioned above and let this moistened wick be used to soften the secretions. Then use the syringe and the saline drops. An older child can blow the mucus out. But he should not blow too hard; otherwise he may get an earache. 

Make sure that the child has enough liquids. Fluids, especially warm ones, help to thin nasal secretions and loosen phlegm. Older children may be given warm water with lemon and honey to soothe a sore throat. If the child has lost his appetite, do not force him to eat. An exclusively breastfed baby does not need any extra fluids. 

Use Of Antihistamines

Some doctors use antihistamines to dry up secretions. This is not advisable. The watery secretions are helping the virus to get out (as in a case of diarrhoea). So we should not act against Nature’s helpful mechanism.

Treatment For Sore Throat Or Irritation In The Throat

Encourage older children to do hot salt-water gargles.

All patients with a bad cold, children as well as adults, need rest — both for themselves, as well as to protect others. It may not be a bad idea to put up a notice for visitors outside the room of your newborn baby, which says, ‘If you have a cold, please do not enter’. If it is practical, even Dad and other members of the family with a cold should stay away from the baby. Please do not, however, start giving masks to others or put one on your face to protect the baby. Continue nursing your breastfed baby if you have a cold. All those who happen to handle a child with a cold at home or in a nursery school must wash their hands to prevent its spread to others.

Some people believe that overwork, anxiety and sudden variations of temperature (for example, if you suddenly bring a child into an air-conditioned room after he was in the hot sun outside) may trigger a cold which you might have otherwise prevented with the help of your well-tuned immune system. I feel that there is some truth in this.

Others also believe that Vitamin C helps to prevent and treat a cold. I agree with those who say that fresh fruits are good for a person for several scientifically-proved reasons. So let your child have enough of fruits or fruit juices. Ignore the myth that fruit juices worsen a cold. Any food, including a fruit, should be avoided only if you are sure that the child is allergic to that particular food.

I would recommend a daily bath if your child with a cold wants it. If not, I advise a sponge with slightly warm water.

Children who eat chicken may be given hot chicken soup to sip. It has also been found helpful in clearing nasal mucus, as compared to sipping hot water.

When Do You Need Antibiotics For A Cold?

If your child or infant has persistent thick, yellow or green discharge from the nose, he may need an antibiotic. But remember that before your child recovers from a cold, the thin nasal discharge often normally becomes thick, green or yellow. This does not require antibiotics. It is the persistent discharge lasting for 7 to 10 days that needs attention. Let your doctor decide about the use of antibiotics.

Consult Your Doctor…

If your child with a cold

  • Has a persistent thick nasal discharge
  • Has rapid breathing (more than 50 breaths per minute)
  • Is wheezing
  • Gets an acute earache
  • Is refusing to eat or drink and passes little urine

Do remember that all ‘noisy breathing’ is not due to wheezing. When air passes through a partially blocked nose, you may notice noisy breathing, while your doctor finds that the chest of the child is completely clear and the sounds conducted from above were giving a false impression that the chest is congested.

If your child has a persistent discharge from one side of the nose, then also you should see your doctor, especially if the discharge is foul smelling or mixed with blood. It may be due to a foreign body or due to a rare condition like diphtheria.

7 March, 2016

Part 4
The A-Z of Childhood Illnesses

Abdominal Pain
Abrasions or Scratches
Acute Glomerulonephritis
Acute Nephritis
Acute Watery Diarrhoea
Anorexia (Poor Appetite)
Bed-Wetting (Enuresis)
Birth Deformities
Bites and Stings
Bone, Joint and Muscle Injuries
Bowlegs and Knock-Knees
Calcium Deficiency
Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation
Cerebral Palsy (CP)
Cleft Lip and Palate
Common Cold
Congenital Heart Disease
Convulsions or Fits or Seizures
Dengue Fever
Diabetes Mellitus
Diarrhoea, Dysentery ...
Down's Syndrome
Earache, Ear Infections ...
Electric Shock
Eye Problems
Foot Problems
German Measles (Rubella)
Glands in the Neck ...
Head Injury
Influenza (Flu)
Joint Disorders
Limp and Pain in the Legs
Malnutrition (Undernutrition)
Menstrual Problems
Mental Retardation (MR)
Mouth To Mouth Breathing
Nephrotic Syndrome
Nose-Related Problems
Premature Baby
Prolapse of the Rectum
Rheumatic Fever
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Short Child
Skin Conditions
Sleep and Sleep Problems
Sore Throat (Pharyngitis)
Stridor (Noisy Breathing)
Teething and Care of Teeth
Tetanus (Lock Jaw)
Tracheoesophageal Fistula
Tropical Eosinophilia
Tuberculosis (TB)
Umbilical Problems
Undescended Testis
Urinary Infection
Vaginal Discharge
Whooping Cough (Pertusis)

Part 4
Keeping Your Child Healthy
Choosing A Paediatrician
Proper Use of Medicines
Home Remedies
A First Aid Kit
The A-Z of Childhood Illnesses
Psychological Concerns
Managing A Hospital Stay
Prayer And Your Child's Health
The Role of Nature Cure
Ayurveda and Child Care
Congenital Heart Disease FAQ
Guide to Child Care
1 Pregnancy, Childbirth ...
2 The Growing Years
3 Feeding Infants, ...
4 Keeping Your Child Healthy
5 Keeping Your Child Happy
About Dr. R. K. Anand

Home Site Map Subject Index Feedback Buy The Book!    top of page 

© Dr. R. K. Anand