Facts About The Common Cold And What To Do About Them…

A runny nose, scratchy throat, and nonstop sneezing — you can’t miss the signs of a cold. But mystery shrouds a lot of other things about it. It has been around for centuries, and there is no cure. There is no vaccine for the common cold. This miserable feeling was called a cold because it usually would pop up in cold weather. Today’s scientist have identified 200 different types of cold viruses that are specific to humans. Most children will catch at least 6 to 12 colds a year. And usually in the wintertime.

Cough and Cold Medication

Children are quit miserable when they have a cold. Their parents are desperate for relief and their pediatrician is frustrated at their inability to treat the cold. So, parents run to the to the pharmacy aisles to purchase cough and cold medication which have shown a lack of effectiveness in children’s colds. The Food and Drug administration did a study and found an estimate of approximately 10,000 products being marketed for cold, cough, or combined indications under the over the counter Drug Review. The FDA issued a public health advisory for parents stating the over the counter cough and cold products should not be used to treat infants and children less than 2 years old because of serious and potentially life threatening side effects. The American Academy of Pediatrics goes even further, recommending that children less than 6 ears old should not use cough and cold medication. Their finding is that serious health problems have been associated with the use of these medications in children, including death, convulsions, rapid heart rates and decreased levels of consciousness.

Unfortunately Cough and Cold Medication Do Not Work

A cold begins when a virus attaches to the lining of your nose or mouth. Either from contaminated fingers or from the droplets in the cough and sneezes of an infected person. The virus then attaches itself to the mucus membranes in the nose. Your nose and throat get inflamed and make a lot of mucus. With so much of your energy directed at fighting the cold virus, you’re left feeling tired and miserable. Very little can be done to help heal a common cold. In this case, Mother Nature, not a pediatrician, is the healer. It simply takes time and has to run its course. No amount of cough or cold medication will accelerate the healing process. Until healing occurs, there will be mucus and there will be coughing. This process takes at least two to four weeks.

Common Symptoms of the Cold

  • Nasal Congestion – Congestion and nasal discharge usually signals the beginning of a viral infection. The mucus is clear for the first days, cloudy for several more and then clear again near the end. Any mucus that has been in the nose or throat for longer than one day is often a cloudy yellow or green color. Contrary to popular belief this is not a sign of bacterial infection nor is it a reason for antibiotics. The color is caused by enzymes in the body’s immune system. It is just the normal stage of the virus cycle. Congestion is usually the worst from day two to six of the virus.
  • Coughing – Do not worry when this happens. Coughing is a protective mechanism designed to move mucus through the respiratory track. In a child with or without asthma, coughing can be worse at night because during the day gravity and activity helps mucus drain and clear from the airways. At night laying horizontal and the lack of movement allows mucus to pool in the airways increasing the coughing bouts. Coughing usually begins soon after congestion starts.
  • Fever – Fever sometimes announces the beginning of the virus. The fever typically resolve after two or three days but can last longer than one week. Babies are not very efficient coughers, so they tend to have more difficulty clearing their airways. Day three to five is usually the time when when the coughing keeps everyone awake all night and parents get very concerned and visit the pediatrician.

The symptoms of a cold can be annoying and lengthy. The good news is that it will resolve and improve without intervention. Rest, TLC and a little bit or Tylenol and Motrin to help keep the baby comfortable.

Answers to a Few Question About the Common Cold

How do I avoid getting a cold?
It is virtually impossible to avoid catching a cold from time to time. There are several steps you can take to help prevent and reduce the spread of viruses that cause it. Washing of hands and disinfecting common surfaces can reduce the frequency. Vitamin C and Echinacea used as a dietary supplement have not been shown to be effective in preventing colds.

When do I need to see a doctor?
While a cold cannot be treated and will get better with time, secondary infections need to be evaluated and appropriately treated. So if you suspect a middle ear infection, sinus infection, or pneumonia call your pediatrician. A secondary infection can sometimes cause a sudden spike in fever, an increase in fussiness, labored breathing, and loss of activity. If that happens call the pediatrician.

What cold remedies work and can’t hurt?

  • Sleep with the head propped higher than the body helps drain mucus.
  • Nasal saline solution can help break up the mucus. Bulb suctions are good.
  • Nose irritation can be treated with small dabs of petroleum jelly.
  • Cool mist humidifiers can help the tickly feeling in the back of the throat and will keep the mucus form becoming too thick. 
  • In children over 1 year of age, 1-2 teaspoons of honey can be given frequently to soothe the throat and mask the tickly feeling in the back of the throat. Honey can also help with the cough.

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Pediatrics of About Pediatrics of Florence

We believe that children are more than just “little adults.” They have unique personalities, challenges, and life circumstances and we have made every effort to make our offices and care as “kid friendly” as possible. We have an aquatic theme in the waiting rooms (separated for sick and well children) as well as themed examination rooms. All of our physicians are Board Certified Pediatricians and members of the American Academy of Pediatrics and our nurse practitioners are all licensed Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and are available to see both well and sick children.
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