The common cold is caused by a viral infection. It may also be caused by allergic rhinitis or an infection, such as a lung infection. Your child may develop a cough, but it usually goes away on its own within three to four weeks.

Cold Symptoms
With a normal cold, your child could have any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever or chills  
  • Sneezing  
  • A dry or sore throat  
  • A stuffy nose or chest congestion  
  • Headache  
  • A dry cough or a cough that brings up mucus  
  • Muscle aches or joint pain  
  • Feeling tired or weak  
  • Loss of appetite  

Managing the Symptoms at Home

Most colds and coughs do not require a doctor's visit or a trip to the emergency room. Here are some tips for keeping your child comfortable while the cold runs its course.

  • Give your child plenty of liquids. Liquids will help thin and loosen mucus so your child can cough it up. Liquids will also keep your child hydrated.  
  • Have your child rest for at least 2 days. Rest will help your child heal.  
  • Use a cool mist humidifier in your child's room. Cool mist can help thin mucus and make it easier for your child to breathe.  
  • Clear mucus from your child's nose. Use a bulb syringe and saline drops to remove mucus from a baby's nose. Saline helps to thin nasal secretions and aids in removal.  
  • Soothe your child's throat. If your child is 8 years or older, have him or her gargle with salt water. Make salt water by adding ¼ teaspoon salt to 1 cup warm water. You can give honey to children older than 1 year. Give ½ teaspoon of honey to children 1 to 5 years. Give 1 teaspoon of honey to children 6 to 11 years. Give 2 teaspoons of honey to children 12 or older.  
  • Do not give over-the-counter cough or cold medicines to children under 6 years. Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. These medicines can cause side effects that may harm your child.  
  • Hand washing is the number one way to prevent infection and the spread of germs  

When to Seek Emergency Care

You should seek emergency care for your child if you notice any of these:

  • Trouble breathing, faster than usual breathing, or chest pain  
  • Lips or nails turn blue
  • Coughs up blood  
  • Nostrils flare when he or she takes a breath  
  • The skin above or below your child's ribs are sucked in with each breath  
  • You see pinpoint or large reddish-purple dots on your child's skin  
  • Is urinating less than 3 times in a 24 hour period  
  • Your baby's soft spot on his or her head is bulging outward or sunken inward  
  • Has a severe headache or stiff neck  

The Emergency Departments at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock and Arkansas Children’s Northwest in Springdale are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for life’s little … and big … emergencies.