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Pediatrics – Common Cold


Colds are a very common medical condition.  There are over two hundred viruses that can cause the common cold.  The viruses are easily transmitted from person to person.  Coughing, sneezing, a sore throat, and a runny nose are typical cold symptoms.  There is no cure for the common cold.  Symptoms may be relieved with rest, over-the-counter medications, and drinking plenty of fluids. 


A cold virus can affect your child’s upper respiratory system.  The upper respiratory system includes the ears, nose, and throat.  A mucus membrane lines the nose and secretes mucus that filters germs and dust when your child breathes.  The sinuses are behind your child’s nose and in the bones of your child’s head and face.  Sinuses are filled with air and are also lined with a mucus membrane.


Colds are very common.  A cold is contagious; meaning it can be passed from one person to another.  A cold develops when a cold virus comes in contact with the lining inside of the nose.  The cold virus multiplies in the warm moist environment.  In turn, your child’s body produces white blood cells to fight the cold virus.  Not only do white blood cells combat the virus, but they also cause the symptoms of a cold.

The cold virus can be spread from person to person.  When a person sneezes or coughs, mucus drops containing the virus float in the air.  Your child can catch a cold by breathing in the virus.  However, colds are most frequently transmitted by hand-to-hand contact or by touching a surface that the virus is on and then touching the nose or eyes.


A runny nose, nasal congestion, and sneezing are classic symptoms of the common cold.  Colds can cause coughing, headache, sinus congestion, and a sore throat.  A common cold usually lasts from seven to ten days.


You usually do not need to contact a doctor if your child’s cold symptoms are mild to moderate.  If your child experiences severe symptoms or if your child’s cold lasts a long time, you should contact your doctor.  Your doctor will examine your child’s ears, nose, and throat and determine if the symptoms are the result of other conditions.


There is no cure for the common cold.  Your child should drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest.  You can ease your child’s symptoms with over-the-counter cold medications.  Prescription antibiotic medications do not work on cold viruses.


Your child can prevent colds with thorough frequent hand washing.  Your child should avoid touching his or her eyes or nose when he or she is around people that have colds.  Disinfect shared surfaces, such as toys, sports equipment, telephones, keyboards, countertops, doorknobs, and faucet handles.  Use disposable paper towels instead of shared fabric hand towels.  Your child should wear gloves during the winter and when on public transportation.

Am I at Risk

Is My Child at Risk?

Certain situations may place your child at a higher risk of contracting a cold.  Essentially, the more people your child is around the more likely your child is to catch a cold.  Being near people with colds who cough, sneeze, and blow their noses increases your child’s risk.  Cold incidences increase during the winter months or rainy season when people spend more time indoors.

Children in daycare facilities and school classrooms are vulnerable to catching a cold.  Teach your children to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly.  It is helpful to disinfect shared toys and commonly used items.  Children that play team sports are also susceptible to colds.  Your child should wash their hands after playing or using shared sports equipment.  Sports equipment should be disinfected after use.

Your child is at a higher risk of contracting colds if he or she touches public items, such as grocery carts, phones, keyboards, and bus or subway railings.  Shaking hands with a person that has a cold increases your child’s risk of catching a cold.


You should contact your doctor if your child’s cold symptoms do not improve after about seven days.  One exception is a dry cough which may last up to a month after symptoms begin.  You should contact your doctor if your child experiences difficulty breathing or severe symptoms.  The elderly and people with serious medical conditions may need to be monitored by their doctors if they get a cold.