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The Common Cold

A cold or upper respiratory infection is a viral infection of the nose and throat. The cold is spread from person-to-person by hand contact, coughing, and sneezing. Colds are NOT caused by cold air or drafts. Most healthy children get at least six colds a year and sometimes up to 10-12 a year.


  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Hoarseness
  • Itchy throat
  • Red eyes
  • Swollen lymph nodes
girl with cold


Fever can occur as a cold is starting and usually lasts less than 3 days. Most nose and throat symptoms are gone in a week. A cough can last 2 to 3 weeks.

Watch for signs of secondary bacterial infection if a fever develops several days to a week after a cold begins. Bacterial infections can be signified by earaches (ear infections), yellow or green drainage from the eyes (conjunctivitis or pink eye), or difficulty breathing (pneumonia).

Most colds can be treated at home by following these tips:
  • For a runny nose with a lot of clear discharge, blowing the nose or suctioning with a bulb syringe can help.
  • For a dry or stuffy nose, use warm water or saline nasal drops to loosen up the dried mucus, followed by blowing or suctioning the nose with a bulb syringe. Instill 1-2 drops into each nostril and then suction or blow the nose after 30-60 seconds. Nasal washes can be done up to 3 times a day with nasal saline drops that can be purchased over-the-counter at your local drugstore. Little Noses and Ocean make nasal saline drops that can be found in the cold medication aisle.
  • Humidifier and hot mist showers help moisten the air and allow stuffy noses to drain and are soothing for children with colds.
  • Try to avoid giving cold medications to children under 9 months of age.
  • Keep in mind that oral decongestants can make a child jittery or keep him/her from sleeping at night. Vapor rubs can be used on the outer clothing of the chest in children over 3 months of age.
  • Antibiotics are not helpful for colds unless a secondary bacterial infection has developed.

Call the office if your child:

  • Has a temperature that exceeds 100.4ºF.(Baby)
  • Has a temperature that exceeds 105ºF. (Child or Adolescent)
  • Has a fever that lasts longer than 3 days.
  • Has a fever that goes away for more than 24 hours but then returns.
  • Experiences difficulty breathing.
  • Develops a yellow or green discharge that comes from the eyes.
  • Has ear pain
  • Has a severe sore throat that lasts for longer than 24 hours.
  • Has a cough that lasts for longer than 3 weeks.
  • Looks or becomes worse.