Myths and Facts about Colds and Congestion

By: Dr Bob Dabrow

Dr. BobWhat causes coughs, runny noses, and other symptoms of the common cold? The cause is usually a viral infection. Lots of viruses can live and grow inside your nose, mouth, throat, or bronchioles and can cause cold symptoms. What are the symptoms of the com-mon cold? Symptoms include cough-ing, sniffling, and a runny nose. Colds can also cause sore throats and chest congestion.

Why does my child always have a runny nose? Children in daycare get an average of 6 colds per year. Colds in children can last up to 10 days, but some children have symptoms for up to 2 weeks.

Does a cold lead to other illnesses? Even though colds can be uncomfort-able, most people get over a cold without lasting problems or complica-tions. Children often get a low-grade fever during the first 3 days of a cold.

When do I need to see the pediatrician? Most children that have a cold do not need to see the doctor or nurse. You should call our office if your child has a chronic runny or stuffy nose that does not get better after 2 weeks, severe red eyes or yellow/green discharge coming out of the eyes, or severe ear or head pain. If a cough or fever lasts longer than 10 days, it is a good idea to be examined.

How can I tell the difference between a cold and the flu?  The common cold and the flu both cause many of the same symptoms, but there are some important differences. A common cold causes severe nasal congestion, mild coughs, and low fevers. The flu causes runny noses, coughs, and con-gestion, but also includes extremely high fevers, body fatigue, aches, and pains.

Are cough and cold medicines safe for children? The American Academy of Pediatrics says there is no reason to use any cough or cold medicines in children under age 6. These medicines are not safe for young children. Even if your child is older than 6, cough and cold medicines are unlikely to help. These medicines won’t cure the cold. If you decide to try nonprescription cold medicines, be sure to follow the directions on the label. Do not combine 2 or more medicines that have acetaminophen in them. If your child takes too much acetaminophen, the drug can damage the liver. If your child has a chronic condition or takes daily prescription medicines, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it is safe to take the cold medications you have in mind.

How can I keep from getting another cold? The most important thing you can do is to wash your hands often with soap and water. Alcohol hand rubs also work well. The germs that cause the common cold can live on tables, door handles, and other surfaces for at least 2 hours. You never know when you might be touching germs, and that’s why it’s so important to clean your hands.