Common Cold in Children: Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, Treatment

With the prevalence of both COVID-19 and the flu, as well as many other viruses going around, parents often find themselves wondering how to tell if their child is suffering from a common cold or something else. We’ll cover everything you need to know about the symptoms, causes, prevention, and treatment of the common cold in this quick guide below.

Symptoms of the Common Cold in Children

Symptoms of the cold usually begin about one to three days after exposure and may include the following:

  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Watery eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Low fever
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Fussiness
  • Trouble sleeping

Symptoms of the common cold typically resolve in about four to ten days.

In comparison, flu symptoms are more severe and include a high fever with extreme fatigue.

Causes of the Common Cold in Children

The common cold is caused by a virus. There are more than 200 different types of viruses that can cause a cold, including rhinovirus, parainfluenza, adenovirus, and enterovirus.

Children who are attending preschool, daycare, and other childcare settings are more likely to catch the common cold. In fact, most kids, on average, will develop at least six to ten colds each year!

The common cold is spread through viral transmission, including airborne means (such as coughs and sneezes) and direct contact (such as sharing drinks or toys with an infected person).

Prevention of the Common Cold in Children

The number-one way to avoid catching the common cold is to practice good hygiene while staying away from those who are currently sick or recovering from a common cold themselves.

Don’t share food or drinks with someone who is infected, and be sure to wash your hands often when frequenting public spaces and large gatherings where you are likely to encounter people who may be infected.

If your child is sick, be sure to take measures to prevent the spread of the cold to the other members of your household. This may include quarantining the person who is ill, upping the dosage of vitamins in the rest of the family, and introducing more frequent handwashing.

Taking vitamins such as Vitamin C, Zinc, and Elderberry can be an effective and safe way to boost the immune system, helping to both prevent and treat the common cold.

Treatment of the Common Cold in Children

The most effective way to treat the common cold is with plenty of rest and lots of fluids.

Saline drops, cool mist humidifiers, warm baths, cough drops (for older children), and warm tea are some of the most common home remedies to help treat the common cold.

Medications can also be given as a way to help alleviate common symptoms while your child is recovering. The common cold cannot be effectively treated with antibiotics or any other prescription medications due to its viral nature, but your child’s pediatrician can assist with treatment options. Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be given to your child in accordance with the package directions for their age and weight.

(Please note: Children and teens should NOT be given aspirin, as it may be linked to the development of Reye’s Syndrome. In addition, OTC cough or cold medicines are NOT recommended for children younger than age six.)

Children with colds (especially those under age two) should be monitored closely for signs of severe illness, including dehydration, high fever, prolonged illness, or infection. Colds can develop into more serious conditions such as croup, pneumonia, or bronchitis. In addition, some children may get ear or sinus infections following a bout with the common cold.

When your child is experiencing symptoms of the common cold, a visit to the pediatrician can help. Give us a call today to meet with one of our friendly board-certified pediatricians.