Cold and Flu in Children

Symptoms of a Cold

Cold symptoms are usually mild and develop 2-5 days after you are exposed to somebody else that is sick. Symptoms may include a fever, runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough, headache and muscle aches. The runny nose typically begins with a clear runny nose, but after 2-3 days, it may become thick and green or yellow. Symptoms usually worsen over the first 3-5 days, and then slowly go away over 10-14 days.

Treating a Cold

Since it is caused by a virus, antibiotics do not work against the common cold. These types of upper respiratory infections go away on their own and taking antibiotics will not help your child get better any faster and will likely not prevent secondary bacterial infections, such as an ear infection or sinus infection. Although there is no cure for colds, that does not mean that you can't treat your child's symptoms to help him feel better. Extra fluids, a cool mist humidifier, and rest will likely help with some of his symptoms. Younger children, since they can't blow their nose, may benefit from using saline nasal drops and a bulb syringe to help keep their nasal passages clear. Over the counter medications that may help, depending on your child's symptoms, include a pain and fever reducer, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and a cold medicine with a decongestant and/or cough suppressant.

Zinc lozenges, although commonly used by adults, have not been shown to be helpful for kids and are not always well tolerated and should probably be avoided.

Coughs in children

Children may develop coughs from diseases or causes that usually do not affect adults, such as:

  • Croup.
  • Bronchiolitis.
  • Infection of the lower respiratory system (such as caused by respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV).
  • Blockage of the airway by an inhaled object, such as food, a piece of a balloon, or a small toy. For more information, see the topic Swallowed Objects.
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke from parents or caregivers who smoke.
  • Emotional or psychological problems. A dry, nonproductive "psychogenic cough" is seen more frequently in children than in adults.

Many coughs are caused by a viral illness. Antibiotics are not used to treat viral illnesses and do not alter the course of viral infections. Unnecessary use of an antibiotic exposes you to the risks of an allergic reaction and antibiotic side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, and yeast infections. Antibiotics also may kill beneficial bacteria and encourage the development of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

A careful evaluation of your health may help you identify other symptoms. Remember, a cough is only a symptom, not a disease, and often the importance of your cough can only be determined when other symptoms are evaluated. Coughs occur with bacterial and viral respiratory infections. If you have other symptoms, such as a sore throat, sinus pressure, or ear pain, see the Related Information section.

Review the Emergencies and Check Your Symptoms sections to determine if and when you need to see a doctor.


Jeff said...

As a dad and a doctor, I find children’s cough and cold medications a very scary topic. I used believe the drug companies, and think that as long as my patient’s or I dosed the children’s cold & cough medications right, then everything would be OK. But when I researched this further, it turns out that children have died from “over dose” of ALL THE MAJOR CHILDRENS COLD AND COUGH MEDICINES even when given the correct dose.

The number of infant deaths attributed to cold and cough medicines is dramatically underreported. New research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics demonstrated that there were at least “10 unexpected infant deaths that were associated with cold-medication” in 2006 alone in the state of Arizona. Extrapolated over the US and Canadian population, that would be over 500 deaths a year associated with cold-medication! (

The FDA recently said that they do not want to pull the medications for children under 6 because they are afraid that parents will give children adult doses because “parents would have no other alternatives.” The truth is that the American Academy of Pediatrics has said that buckwheat honey is a safe alternative.

Parents now have a safe, effective, yet natural choice for their children. Recent research from Penn State showed 100% pure Buckwheat Honey out performed children’s cough and cold medicine for children’s nighttime cough.

Buckwheat Honey is considered safe for children 1 and older, so it is the perfect choice for conscientious parents and doctors. Currently, “Honey Don’t Cough” is the only company packaging 100% pure Buckwheat Honey in ready-to-use packets for children. A growing number of pharmacies are providing “Honey don’t Cough,” it is available on To learn more you can visit Check out


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