DESCRIPTIONThe common cold is a contagious viral infection of the upper-respiratory passages. The nose, throat, sinuses, ears, eustachian tubes, trachea, larynx, and bronchial tubes are involved.
Appropriate health care includes: self-care after diagnosis; physician's monitoring of general condition and medications (for complications only).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSRunny or stuffy nose. Nasal discharge is watery at first, then becomes thick and greenish yellow.
Cough that produces little or no sputum.
Loss of appetite.
Any of at least 200 viruses. Virus particles spread through the air or from person-to-person contact, especially hand-shaking.
Stress; fatigue or overwork; poor nutrition; smoking; exposure to cold; wet weather; crowded or unsanitary living conditions.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
To prevent spreading a cold to others, have your child avoid unnecessary contact during the contagious phase (first 2 to 4 days).
The child should wash his hands frequently, especially after blowing his nose or before handling food.
Keep the child away from the risks listed above.
MEDICAL TESTSYour own observation of symptoms; medical history and physical exam by a doctor; laboratory throat culture.
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSBacterial infections of the ears, throat, sinuses, or lungs.
Spontaneous recovery in 7 to 14 days.
To relieve your child's nasal congestion, use salt-water drops (-1/4 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of water).
Use a cool-mist humidifier to increase air moisture.
Use Vaseline on the skin between the child's nose and lip to prevent rawness from nasal drainage.
For a baby too young to blow his nose, use an infant nasal aspirator. If mucus is thick and sticky, loosen it by putting 2 or 3 drops of salt solution (see above) into each nostril. Don't insert cotton swabs into a child's nostrils. Instead, catch the discharge outside the nostril on a tissue or swab, roll it around and pull the discharge out of the nose.
For an infant or very young child, lay the child on his stomach to sleep. This improves nasal drainage and breathing.
MEDICATIONNo medicine, including antibiotics, can cure the common cold. To relieve your child's symptoms, use non-prescription drugs, such as acetaminophen, nose drops or sprays, cough remedies, and throat lozenges.
If you must reduce fever, use acetaminophen instead of aspirin. Aspirin may contribute to the development of Reye's syndrome, a form of encephalitis, when given to children during a viral illness.
Bed rest is not necessary, but have the child avoid vigorous activity, resting often.
DIET & FLUIDS
Your child should drink extra fluids, including water, fruit juice, tea, and carbonated drinks. Avoid giving the child milk because it may thicken secretions.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When signs of infection have decreased, appetite returns, and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
The following occurs during your child's illness: increased throat pain, or white or yellow spots on the tonsils or other parts of the throat; coughing episodes that last longer than intervals between coughing, cough that produces thick yellow-green or gray sputum, cough that lasts longer than 10 days, or difficult or labored breathing between coughing bouts; fever that lasts several days or rises to 101F (38.3C); shaking chills; chest pain or shortness of breath; earache or headache; skin rash; pain in the teeth or over the sinuses; unusual lethargy; unusual irritability; delirium; enlarged, tender glands in the neck; dusky blue or gray lips, skin, or nail beds; inability to bottle-feed or breast-feed in an infant.