Rainy season in the Philippines brings not just downpours and flood but the common cold season too. Has your child caught it? Understanding this illness, how to treat it and how to prevent it will make your child’s sick days shorter, fewer and calmer for you and him.
You may be wondering, just how common is the common cold anyway? Well, with more than 200 different viruses that can cause the common cold it’s pretty common. In fact, children can get it as many as 8 to 12 times a year, especially young children whose immune systems are still developing. That’s compared to an adult’s two to four colds a year.
What are the symptoms of a cold?
Your child may wake up in the morning or come home from school feeling generally unwell and tired. The colds usually start with an itchy or sore throat due to mucus building up. Then comes the runny or stuffy nose and sneezing. A mild fever, headache, cough, muscle aches and loss of appetite can also come with it.
The nasal discharge or sipon may change from a thin, translucent consistency to a thicker yellow or green. How do you catch a cold?
Colds are easy to catch. You can get it by breathing in the virus in the air from an infected person’s sneeze or cough, or by coming in direct contact with a person who has the colds. Touching your mouth or nose after touching a surface – door handles, pens, books, the TV remote – that someone with a cold has contaminated can also give you the virus. Colds-causing viruses can live on surfaces for several hours.
This may be surprising for some parents to hear but most colds in children get better on their own. Your child’s body will be able to fight the sickness without help from medication. Colds usually clear up within a week but some last for as long as 2 weeks.
Medicine, however, will be able to relieve cold symptoms such as fever, headache and muscle aches. The National Health Service of the UK says that it’s safe for children to drink paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease discomfort.
Cough and cold medicines however should not be given to children under 4 years old, according to the Food and Drug Administration of the US. These include decongestants (phenylephrine), antihistamines (chlorpheniramine maleate and others), cough suppressants (dextromethorphan) and cough expectorants (guaifenesin).
Some good ol’ TLC – that’s tender loving care – from mom and dad also help a lot. A warm bath can help soothe aches and pains. A raised pillow and steam from a hot shower will help with a stuffy nose. Cough drops will relieve a sore throat. And, warm soup is not only comforting but some research shows that the amino acid in it can help control congestion. A rub on the chest with cold vaporizing ointment can also help your child feel better.
Remember to have your child drink plenty of fluids like water or juice too.
Teach your child to wash his hands often especially before every meal, after every bathroom trip and after playing at school. Proper hand washing takes 20 seconds and is done with soapy water.
Kids should also avoid anyone who has a cold. Virus particles can travel up to 12 feet through the air when someone coughs or sneezes. Remind your child not to share utensils with a classmate or to drink from someone else’s glass. Tell them not to pick up other people’s used tissues too.
If your child is the one with the colds, teach him to cover his mouth and nose when sneezing and to use a tissue when he blows his nose. If he doesn’t have a tissue, he can sneeze or cough into shirtsleeves – not on his hands. Remind him to wash his hands afterwards.
Consider keeping your child home while he recovers as well to keep the virus from spreading to his classmates and friends at school. When to call the doctor
Seek medical advice if your child’s symptoms last more than three weeks, if your child is getting worse instead of better or is experiencing any of these symptoms:
severely sore throat
difficulty in breathing
chest pain or coughing up bloodstained phlegm
increasing headache or facial or throat pain
swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck
Infants under three months old and with a fever should be immediately brought to the doctor. Talk to a health expert if you think your child has more than a cold or to ask what medications are suitable for him.