The common cold is probably one of the most frequent health problems that every parent encounters. Even though the cold is common, it is still a source of family stress when it arrives. But do we really understand what the common cold is, what causes it and what can be done to protect against it? Read our guide to find out more.
The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory system that is most often caused by rhinoviruses and coronaviruses. It is an inflammation of the throat caused by a virus and is a type of pharyngitis. The common cold is one of the most common upper respiratory tract infections in the world. On average, children contract at least 5 infections per year.
Influenza or “flu” is another type of viral infection which appears in the winter months of the year.
Flu is very contagious and is caused by many different strains of influenza virus. The common cold together with other respiratory tract infections like influenza are collectively called “flu”.
Signs and symptoms of colds
The common cold usually starts as nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing and sometimes coughing. A cold is often a mild illness which doesn’t stop a child from normal daily life, however sometimes a child will suffer with other symptoms such as fever, body pains and headache. This is usually diagnosed as the more debilitating influenza.
How do we catch the common cold or flu?
Fact? Telling your child that not wearing a jacket or sweater when it’s cold, sitting or sleeping in a draft and going outside while their hair is wet causes a cold is simply not true!
The common cold and flu infections are transmitted through air, usually by coming into contact with the saliva or nasal secretions of someone who is already infected with the virus. We can become infected when we breathe into our nose the virus-filled air caused by someone sneezing or coughing.
Touching contaminated surfaces also accounts for many infections. Surfaces such as hand rails on buses and trains, door handles can all carry the virus when an infected person sneezes onto their hands and then touches these common areas.
Rubbing your eyes, or putting fingers in your mouth will easily allow the infection to be transmitted to you.
OK prevention didn’t work this time, how do we treat the common cold or flu?
A cold or flu is generally a mild and self-limiting disease. Antibiotics and medicines are ineffective and the virus has to run its course.
The common cold is the number 1 reason kids visit the doctor, but you are wasting the doctors time!
We can only treat the symptoms by giving paracetamol or ibuprofen for fever and body pains.
Symptoms such as runny nose, nasal congestion and sneezing can be reduced by using antihistamines or decongestants. Saline nasal drops can also help relieve nasal congestion in younger children.
Ensuring plenty of rest and drinking lots of water to maintain hydration will help all children infected with a common cold.
Also, remember to give some thought to the health of others and:
- keep your child at home when they are sick.
- Teach your child to cover their mouth and nose when sneezing.
- Teach your child to use a tissue for blowing their nose only once and then discarding them safely in the bin.
- Lastly, teach your child to wash their hands with soap and water regularly so they don’t spread the virus further.