It is one of the most common and vexatious illnesses that affect children. Most children have three to ten episodes a year, and it can cause a lot of misery, school absenteeism, and expense. The disease itself is mild, and children recover with treatment, without treatment, and in spite of treatment...
Almost all colds are caused by viruses. The most common culprit is the rhinovirus. Other viruses that also cause the common cold are coronaviruses, parainfluenza viruses, influenza viruses, adenoviruses, reovirus, and respiratory syncytial virus. While we often worry about a child having a throat infection (strep throat), the typical cold is quite different from that bacterial infection.
People with colds release the virus from the nose -- by nose blowing and sneezing. These viruses then settle on doorknobs, toys, table tops, etc, and reach the hands of other people. From the hands, they are carried to the mouth or nose, and start an infection. The cold viruses can also be breathed in.
Children are more prone to get such infections, because:
Despite what we have believed for a long time, getting chilled or wet does not cause a cold. Colds are also not spread by cold weather, changes in the weather, open windows, or various types of food.
The secret is to amuse the child till the cold gets better. Strong medicine is not really required -- indeed, there are those who say no medicine is required.
Some things do help, though. The child often has high fever on the first day or two of a cold. Fever medicine like paracetamol (acetaminophen) can bring down the fever, and relieve the headache and bodyache these children often have.
A blocked nose can be very uncomfortable. Small babies, especially, find it hard to breathe, breastfeed, and sleep. Salt solution or decongestant nose drops provide quick relief, and are quite safe when used for short periods.
To antibiotic or not? Almost all colds are caused by viruses. Antibiotics have no effect on them. Also, most colds are at their worst for a couple of days, and then get better on their own. Antibiotics do not reduce the duration of the illness, or reduce the complications. These drugs are expensive, have side effects, and frequent use helps the germs to become resistant, which is a problem for all of us.
What about the thousands of cough and cold remedies available? Over the years, many have been scientifically studied, and none have been found to really help. They neither shorten the course of the illness, nor provide much relief to the child.
Last Revision: February 16, 2016
Dr. Parang Mehta,
Opposite Putli, Sagrampura,
Surat. Tel: +91 9429486624.
Full list of articles at bottom of page