Colds are very common. Some children can become very restless with a cold. So we shall discuss the subject at
But before we do that, please note:
antibiotic helps in common cold because it is a viral infection.
- Drugs containing phenylpropanolamine and
antihistamines (anti-allergy medicines) are harmful in common cold.
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
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
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
a persistent thick nasal discharge
rapid breathing (more than 50 breaths per minute)
an acute earache
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