An extract from 'Birth to Five' by Dept of Health 2007
It may seem that your child always has a cold or upper respiratory tract infection. In
fact it is normal for a child to have a cold eight or more times a year. This is because
there are hundreds of different viruses and young children are meeting each one of
them for the first time. Gradually they build up immunity and get fewer colds. Here are
some suggestions on how to treat colds.
● Because colds are caused by viruses, not bacteria, antibiotics don’t help. It is also
best for antibiotics to be used only for more serious illnesses.
● Most colds will get better in five to seven days.
● Cough and cold medicines have not been shown to work and may produce side effects
in young children. They may also cause poisoning if your child accidentally
swallows more than the right dose.
● Stuffiness may be made worse by nasal decongestants; if these are necessary they
should only be used for two to three days.
● Saline nose drops may help to loosen dried nasal secretions or a stuffy nose – ask
your pharmacist, GP or health visitor about these.
● Tickling the nose with a teased cotton bud causes sneezing and is helpful for
clearing the nose before feeding.
● Increase the amount of fluid your child normally drinks.
● A pillow or blanket put under the baby’s mattress to raise the head may help snuffly
babies breathe more easily.
● Fever and pain can be treated with the correct dose of paracetamol for your child’s
age or with junior ibuprofen. Don’t use adult products/doses for children.
● Encourage all the family to wash their hands to prevent the spread of colds from
Children may also cough when they have a cold because of mucus trickling down the
back of the throat. If your child is feeding, eating and breathing normally and there is
no wheezing, a cough is not usually anything to worry about. But if your child has a
bad cough that won’t go away, see your GP. If your child has a temperature and
cough and/or is breathless, this may indicate an infection on the chest. If the cause is
bacteria and not a virus, your GP will prescribe antibiotics to treat this – although it
won’t soothe or stop the cough straight away.
• If a cough continues for a long time, especially if it is more troublesome at night or
is brought on by your child running about, it might be a sign of asthma. Some
children with asthma also have a wheeze or some breathlessness. If your child
has any of these symptoms, he or she should be seen by your GP. If your child
seems to be having trouble breathing, contact your GP, even in the middle of the
• Although it is distressing to hear your child cough, in fact coughing serves a
purpose. When there is phlegm on the chest, or mucus from the nose runs down
the back of the throat, coughing clears it away. Most doctors believe cough
mixtures do not work and are a waste of money. To ease your child’s cough, give
him or her plenty of warm, clear fluids to drink. If your child is over the age of one,
try a warm drink of lemon and honey. There is no need to try to stop the cough