The average child will get between 3 and 8 colds per year. Unfortunately, about all a parent can do is relieve the symptoms with a lot of love and a few simple comforts. Here are some tips on colds, including what you can do to treat and prevent them.
Colds are not caused by wet feet, getting caught in the rain without a hat or exposure to cold air. Although colds are more common when the weather is bad, studies around the globe show that even when winters are mild, kids still get colds. Children who live at the equator get colds just as ours do. The only places in the world where there aren’t too many colds are on extremely isolated islands and Antarctic exploration sites.
No, you don’t get colds from the cold: Colds are caused by viruses which you get from other people. And when people are in close quarters — like children in day care, preschool or school — there are more opportunities for germs to spread.
Within the typical family, boys have slightly more colds than girls, and mothers have more colds than fathers. Adults usually have about half as many colds as children do.
More than 150 different viruses cause colds. Since there are so many causes, it’s practically impossible for someone to build up immunity to all the viruses that cause colds. That’s why we can’t immunize or vaccinate children against colds.
The cold-causing virus multiplies rapidly in the nose and is secreted in a watery nasal discharge. A child catches a cold by having contact with the nasal secretions of another infected person, usually another child. If two kids are sitting next to each other and the one with the cold coughs or sneezes, the little virus-laden droplets will fly into the air. There’s a good chance your child’s next breath will take in some of that virus. Similarly, kids who touch their noses during a cold can spread the virus with their fingers to other children.
Stress the importance of frequent hand washing — at home and at group-care settings, such as day care and school. Use soap and water or a germicidal hand sanitizer, such as Purell®.
Use disposable paper tissues and make sure your child covers his mouth during sneezes. Stress the use of tissues, not fingers, around the nose.
Limiting your child’s contact with other children does prevent colds. Children cared for in settings with 6 children or less have fewer colds than those cared for at day care centers with larger numbers of children. Unfortunately, simply keeping children with colds out of child care settings has little effect on the spread of colds. The viruses that cause colds can be spread before a child becomes ill, and well after she has recovered. Decisions about staying home should be based on how a child feels, and whether she will require more care than can be provided.
Usually, the first day a child has a cold, the virus spreads within the nose, resulting in an increase in nasal secretions. By the second or third day, symptoms spread. Now there is nasal stuffiness, throat irritation and sneezing. These are due to cell damage and irritation.
The runny nose — which actually is the shedding of the cold-causing virus — is at its maximum within 2 to 7 days. Some nasal discharge may continue for another 2 weeks.
Other symptoms may include headaches, coughs, feverish feelings, chilliness, burning eyes, burning nasal membranes, muscle aches, low-grade fever and
unwillingness to eat.
Often, repeated blowing of the nose and persistent discharge leads to rough, painful skin around the nose. With a stuffy nose, your child may resort to mouth breathing, increasing dryness and discomfort in the throat.
The illness usually peaks by the fifth day. The body develops antibodies to fight off the virus and improvement is noted by the 10th day.
It’s a myth that vitamin C prevents colds and decreases the severity of symptoms. And since colds are caused by a virus, not bacteria, antibiotics won’t help. But the following treatment methods will.
Vaporizers have been shown to be of no value and can often harbor dangerous mold spores if not cleaned correctly and often.
WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR
Although a parent usually can treat a child’s cold perfectly well at home, there are a few times when you should check with a doctor to make sure your child’s symptoms aren’t a sign of something more serious. Instead of the common cold, her symptoms could signal problems with adenoids, sinuses, allergies or other conditions.
Call the doctor if your child develops:
(8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.)
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