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Deborah Vicario, MD | Colds & Coughs in Children

November 11, 2019

Hello, my name is Dr. Deborah Vicario. I’m a family physician with the Ohio Medical Group. I’d like to talk a little bit about when your child catches a cold or develops a cough, and some of the things that you can do to help your child feel better. Children can develop colds or upper respiratory between 3 to 7 times a year. Most of these infections are viral, which means that an antibiotic will not help. Most viral upper respiratory infections typically improve within 10 to 14 days even without an antibiotic. And sometimes antibiotics can cause harm. Often times, when your child does develop an upper respiratory infection, they can also develop a cough with it. Usually, the cough associated with an upper respiratory infection typically improves within 14 days, although sometimes the cough can last 3 to 4 weeks. Even if your child does get an antibiotic or other treatments, the cough can still take awhile to improve. When should a parent be concerned about their child’s cough and when should they take them to the doctor? If your child develops an abrupt cough, if your child gets a cough that’s associated with fever, or rapid breathing or if the cough becomes more frequent or severe after 2 weeks, they do need to see their pediatrician. As a parent, when your child becomes ill, you want to do whatever you can to help your child feel better quicker. However, The Food and Drug Administration does not recommend cough and cold drugs that include nasal decongestants, antihistamines, cough suppressants, or expectorants for the use in children younger than 6 years old for the treatment of upper respiratory infections or cough. The usefulness of over the counter cough and cold medications has not been proven in children of all ages and therefore is not recommended. Many of these products can also be harmful for young children. So, what can you do? Therapies, which can help improve the symptoms of an upper respiratory infection or a cough can include vapor rub, apply to the chest and the neck, which can improve cough severity and improve quality of sleep for your child. Saline nasal drops are a safe non-irritating way to fight congestion Also, for a cough, you may be able to try honey. It has been shown in study to reduce the frequency of coughs and to improve the quality of sleep for your child. Honey should not be given to children under the age of 1. For children 2 to 5 years old, 1/2 teaspoon at bedtime may be helpful. For children 6 to 11 years old, the dose is 1 teaspoon at bedtime. And for children 12 to 18 years old, 2 teaspoons of honey at bedtime may help. A cold mist humidifier placed in your child’s room over night can also help to reduce the symptoms of chest congestion, a stuffy nose, and a cough. Also, it’s important that your child gets plenty of rest, and drinks a lot of fluids. So in summary the common cold is self-limited. And no over the counter cold or cough medication can cure a cough or a cold. And some over the counter products may even be harmful for young children. If you are concerned that your child’s illness is not getting better, or seems to be getting worse after two weeks, or if you have several questions bring your child to the doctor. Hopefully, your child will start to feel better quickly, and ultimately, when your child feels better, you’ll feel better.

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