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Cold and Cough in Children - Precautions that Parents Must Take

Written and reviewed by
Dr. Abhishek Goel 90% (39 ratings)
Senior Residency, MD - Paediatrics, MBBS
Pediatrician, Delhi  •  16 years experience
Cold and Cough in Children - Precautions that Parents Must Take

Cold and cough is caused by a viral infection, which can last for about two to four weeks. The symptoms include stuffy or a runny nose, coughing and sore throat. Many times, the infection may raise body temperature and the child may suffer from fever. Our body’s immune system naturally fights with such infections. Depending on the type of cough and the symptoms, the virus can stay active in the body for about 4 to 6 weeks. It is quite painful to see the child suffering from cold and cough. The symptoms of this infection are worse during the first two days.

The child will experience pain and irritation in the throat with difficulty in swallowing, frequent coughing with mucous, breathing difficulty and high fever. Most parents rush to over the counter drugs for cold and cough to ease of their child’s agony. However, most drugs/ cough syrups available over the counter only provide temporary relief. Medical evidence suggests that antibiotics do not kill viruses, thus, it is not advisable to treat cold and cough with antibiotics unless accompanied by another infection. So, what do parents do? Well, there is a lot that can be done.

Let’s first understand the type of a cough your child might be suffering from:

  1. Dry cough: Generally occurs due to infection in upper respiratory tract, cold or influenza. Children with asthma and allergies are also prone to this type of cough as dry cough is triggered by smoke or dust.
  2. Croup Cough: A harsh barking and dry cough with swelling beneath vocal cords.
  3. Wet Cough: Most commonly caused by cold. This is an infection of the lower respiratory tract characterised by mucous secretions.
  4. Whooping cough: Characterised by fast coughing, breathing difficulties and a whooping sound while breathing.

Apart from this, If coughing starts suddenly along with choking, the child may have inhaled a foreign body. Immediate help may be required. For babies less than 12 months of age, cold cough followed by breathing difficulties may indicate bronchiolitis and require a paediatric attention. A normal cold and cough generally subside with two to four weeks. However, it is important to understand when to consult a doctor.

  • Chest pain or breathing problems
  • Cough lasting for more than 6 weeks.
  • A yellow, green or brown mucous indicating another infection.
  • Swollen glands, persistent high fever, rashes.
  • Body getting pale and symptoms getting worse.
  • Temperature higher than 38 degrees in the case of infants.

Precautions and diet that should be taken care of

  • Increase Intake of fluids especially hot liquids
  • Never stop breastfeeding the baby
  • Vapour rub applied on chest and back is an effective remedy
  • Inhaling steam provides relief to a sore throat and nose
  • Intake of crushed tulsi leaves with honey or hot turmeric milk is soothing and very helpful

There is little we can do to prevent viral infections. However, proper care and caution can ensure a smooth recovery. If you wish to discuss any specific problem, you can consult a pediatrician.

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