Cold Enough

Keep the common cold in control with these tips
Cold Enough

‘Tis the season to stock up on paper. No, we don’t mean gift wrap but facial tissue.

We got the scoop from Dr. Jeremy Friedman, Head of Pediatric Medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children and co-author of Caring for Kids on avoiding and managing the common cold.

The 411

Fact: On average, adults get 2 to 3 colds per year, and children a whopping 5 to 7.
Myth: Cold temperatures cause people to get more colds in the winter (sorry, Mom, the scarf thing is an old wives’ tale).
Fact: Spending more time indoors allows viruses (there are more than 200 of them!) to spread more easily from person to person.
Typical Symptoms: A stuffed/runny nose, headache and tiredness. Sore eyes, sore throat, and hoarseness are also experienced. However, fevers are infrequent (that’s usually the flu) and the cold does not usually affect the chest. Parents often underestimate the duration of a cold—while for older children and adults, symptoms may only last a few days, a week to even two in younger children is to be expected. 

Prevention (An Ounce of Which is Worth a Pound of Cure)

Picture This: Colds are spread by hand-to-hand contact and inhaling droplets in the air contaminated with the cold virus (like from someone else’s sneeze). Yuck!
Fact: Cold viruses can live for hours on toys or furniture, so be especially careful when you take your child to the doctor’s office that you wash his hands after playing in the waiting room!
How To: Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose and wash your hands and your little one’s hands too (with soap, all over, for 20 seconds, rinse for 10 seconds, use a clean towel to dry them—you know, the proper way) frequently. Minimize close contact with people who have a cold or the flu, and (we know, easier said than done—back to hand-washing here as a back-up plan) eat well and get plenty of rest. (One Savvy Scout even has a rule that all children must wash their hands upon entering her house!)

Aaachoo! Now What To Do

We know it’s hard to do (especially you, mom) but you really should rest. Yes, rest. Try increasing the humidity in bedrooms if noses or throats feel dry and scratchy (use a humidifer if needed).

Young babies may be uncomfortable and have difficulty feeding if their nose is blocked, so they may benefit from saline nose drops to loosen the mucous. (With or without a nasal aspirator to help suck out the gooey stuff.) In older children, if the nose starts to look a little red and raw on the inside, (it hurts), a bit of petroleum jelly to line the raw areas may help.

Wheezing, rapid or laboured breathing, earache, increasing drowsiness, development of a new fever are all signs that might suggest the cold is turning into something more serious which warrants a visit to the doctor.

The Goods on the Meds

The good doctor recommends staying away from all ‘over the counter’ medications in young children (under 2 years of age) because the potential side effects such as sleepiness outweigh the benefits. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tempra) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can be used for the fever or aches and pains. In older children, decongestants for blocked noses and cough syrups for persistent coughs especially at night can occasionally be helpful for the symptoms but really don’t make the cold go away any quicker.

Aspirin should be avoided because of the risk of Reyes syndrome (a very rare but serious disease affecting the brain and liver and associated with aspirin and viral illnesses). Antiobiotics do not work against viruses and should not be used to treat the common cold (so don’t ask for them!) unless it develops into an ear or chest infection.

Keep hands clean, get some rest and breathe in some fresh air. Good old fashioned advice that should make the three amigos of the common cold, Sniff, Splutter and Cough, less common around your house this winter.

Because it’S-NOT fun having a cold!

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First published 2006.12.12

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