Need something? Call us: 1.800.4BAYLOR(1.800.422.9567)
Text Size:

Kid Care: Colds

There’s no substitute for good old-fashioned loving care. Beyond that, the following suggestions should help your child get back up to speed soon. If your child hasn’t had a fever for the past 24 hours and feels okay, he or she can return to regular activities at school and at play. You can help prevent future colds by following the tips at the end of this sheet.

Young boy blowing nose in tissue.

Ease Congestion

  • Use a cool-mist vaporizer to help loosen mucus. Don’t use a hot-steam vaporizer with a young child, who could get burned. Make sure to clean the vaporizer often to help prevent mold growth.

  • Try over-the-counter saline nasal sprays. They’re safe for children. These are not the same as nasal decongestant sprays, which may make symptoms worse.

  • Use a bulb syringe to clear the nose of a child too young to blow his or her nose. Wash the bulb syringe often in hot, soapy water. Be sure to drain all of the water out before using it again.

Soothe a Sore Throat

  • Offer plenty of liquids to keep the throat moist and reduce pain. Good choices include ice chips, water, or frozen fruit bars.

  • Give children age 4 or older throat drops or lozenges to keep the throat moist and soothe pain.

  • Give ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve pain. Never give aspirin to a child under age 18 who has a cold or flu. (It could cause a rare but serious condition called Reye’s syndrome.)

Before You Medicate

Cold and cough medications should not be used for children under the age of 6, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. These medications do not work well on young children and may cause harmful side effects. If your child is age 6 or older, use care when using cold and cough medications. Always follow your doctor’s advice.

Quiet a Cough

  • Serve warm fluids such as soup to help loosen mucus.

  • Use a cool-mist vaporizer to ease croup (dry, barking coughs).

  • Use cough medication for children age 6 or older only if advised by your child’s doctor.

Preventing Colds

To help children stay healthy:

  • Teach children to wash their hands often—before eating and after using the bathroom, playing with animals, or coughing or sneezing. Carry an alcohol-based hand gel (containing at least 60 percent alcohol) for times when soap and water aren’t available.

  • Remind children not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth.

Tips for Proper Handwashing

Use warm water and plenty of soap. Work up a good lather.

  • Clean the whole hand, under the nails, between the fingers, and up the wrists.

  • Wash for at least 10–15 seconds (as long as it takes to say the alphabet or sing “Happy Birthday”). Don’t just wipe—scrub well.

  • Rinse well. Let the water run down the fingers, not up the wrists.

  • In a public restroom, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door.

When to Call the Doctor

Call the doctor’s office if your otherwise healthy child has any of the signs or symptoms described below:

  • In an infant under 3 months old, a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

  • In a child 3 to 36 months old, a rectal temperature of 102°F (39.0°C) or higher

  • In a child of any age who has a temperature of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher

  • A fever that lasts more than 24-hours in a child under 2 years old, or for 3 days in a child 2 years or older

  • A seizure caused by the fever

  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath

  • A stiff neck or headache

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Persistent brown, green, or bloody mucus

  • Signs of dehydration, which include severe thirst, dark yellow urine, infrequent urination, dull or sunken eyes, dry skin, and dry or cracked lips

  • Your child still doesn’t look right to you, even after taking a non-aspirin pain reliever

Online Medical Reviewer: Contini, Peter C, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Ordelt, Kathy, RN, CPN, CRRN
Last Review Date: 1/25/2012
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.