Catch me if you can

This is the time of the year when kids get sick easily, mostly through common viruses. So, this month, Dr Jinan Harith Darwish helps us understand and deal with the common cold.

There is no cure for the common cold. There is also no specific treatment to make it go away more quickly and the bad news is that it’s pretty much impossible to stop children from getting it. The best way to treat the illness is to distinguish the symptoms and act accordingly.

What are colds?
Colds are a type of upper respiratory tract infection and are the most common cause of illness in children (as well as in adults).

How often do they occur?
The average preschooler will experience around six episodes per year.

What are the causes of common colds and how are they spread?
Most colds are caused by a virus. In fact, there are more than 200 types of cold-causing virus and the disease is spread by sneezing, coughing and hand contact.

What are the symptoms of a cold?
You might see one or more of the following: a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, sore throat and ears, cough, headache, red eyes, swelling of lymph glands and occasionally fever. Your child can also lose appetite, feel miserable, irritable or even feel sick or vomit.

When do I call my doctor or take my child to the hospital?
If your child looks or acts very sick, is not alert when awake or has difficulty breathing not relieved by cleaning out the nose. Also if your child has a weak immune system (sickle cell disease, HIV, chemotherapy, organ transplant, chronic steroids etc.) or fever over 40°C which doesn’t improve within two hours after taking fever medicine. An important alert: if your infant’s age is less than 12 weeks with fever above 38°C rectally, do NOT give your baby any medicine before being seen by a physician.

When can my child return to school?
Your child can return to child care or school after the fever is gone and when they feel well enough to participate in normal activities. For practical purposes, the spread of colds cannot be prevented.

How do I prevent a cold?
There are some simple things you can do to reduce the chance of getting a cold, or passing it on – for example, wash your own and your child’s hands after sneezing, coughing, blowing noses and before eating. You can also teach your child to cough into his or her elbow to avoid spreading the germs to the hands.

Medicine for colds: Cold medicines are not recommended at any age as they are not helpful. They can’t remove dried mucus from the nose. Nasal washes can. Antihistamines are also not helpful, unless your child also has nasal allergies.

Age limit: Below four years old, your child should never use any cough or cold medicines as they are unsafe. Avoid multi-ingredient products at any age.

Say no to antibiotics: Antibiotics don’t help to cure colds, unless your child develops an ear or sinus infection.

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