The worst things about having a cold are continuous sniffling, breathing through one nostril and not being able to taste your food! The common cold is a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract. The most common symptoms of this infection are a runny nose, sneezing, cough, sore throat, headache and fever. Over 200 types of viruses can cause the common cold. Although people who suffer from this condition usually recover within 7 to 10 days, some symptoms may last longer. If left untreated even after symptoms persist, it may develop into pneumonia.
Common cold can be transmitted through the air if you are in close proximity to the infected person. It can also be spread indirectly if you touch your eyes or nose after touching surfaces with cold germs on them. Hence, this makes common cold the most frequent infectious diseases in humans. On an average, an adult contracts common cold two to four times a year. This frequency increases in children and they contract the illness six to eight times a year.
A common cold usually starts with fatigue. It progresses into a feeling of chilliness, sneezing, headache followed by a runny nose and cough. In adults, the cough lasts for an average of 18 days, while in children, the cough lasts for more than 10 days in 35-40 percent of the cases, and more than 25 days in 10 percent of the cases. It is important to understand that common cold is different from influenza even though both illnesses have similar symptoms.
While the symptoms of a common cold can be treated, there is no cure for the illness itself. You can, however, prevent contracting the common cold by –
- Staying away from people who have the illness
- Washing your hands regularly with antibacterial soap
- Not touching your mouth, eyes or nose with unwashed hands
- Using face masks when you step out of the house
Since it is difficult to monitor if children follow measures to prevent the illness, they are most likely to contract common cold. As a parent, you might feel helpless every time your child sniffles or coughs. However, consulting a paediatrician and taking prescription medicines can help alleviate the symptoms of the common cold in children. Cough drops are also a good way to provide temporary relief for a scratchy cough. However, do not give cough drops to children under the age of three.
Types Of Coughs And Colds
In order to treat symptoms of the common cold, you should first identify the types of cold and cough troubling your child. Read on to know more –
A cold can cause either a stuffy nose or a runny nose.
1. Stuffy Nose:
It is a misconception that stuffy nose is the result of too much mucus blocking the nasal passage. In reality, a clogged nose is the result of inflammation of the blood vessels in the sinuses.
2. Runny Nose:
When you have a common cold, your body produces the chemical histamine. This chemical increases the mucus production which leads to a runny nose.
The different types of coughs can be categorized as –
1. Dry Cough:
It mostly occurs because of the common cold. It can also be due to lower respiratory tract infections like allergies, asthma and bronchitis
2. Wet Cough:
A wet cough, also known as a productive cough, is the result of excess fluids or mucus obstructing the breathing passages. Wet coughs usually help in clearing the excess fluids from the lungs
3. Whooping Cough:
Also known as Pertussis, whooping cough is similar to dry cough. However, it may last even after the bout of common cold has passed and can worsen after a while. It generally ends in coughing fits, thus, forcing the child to breathe strenuously, which results in a “whooping” sound
4. Croup Or Barking Cough:
Croup is a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract, resulting in a peculiar “barking” cough
5. Wheezing Cough:
It occurs when the breathing passages are narrow and clogged. Your child might unintentionally make a high-pitched whistling sound while breathing if they have wheezing cough
Simple Home Remedies For Common Cold In Children
Common cold in children can often be treated or controlled with home remedies. Since most of the symptoms tend to get worse during the night, try these cold and cough remedies for kids at night for alleviating their discomfort –
- Steam Inhalation –
If your child has a blocked nose and breathing passages combined with wet cough, steam inhalation is a good option. The steam for the warm water helps in loosening the mucus in the nasal passage and gets rid of it. Adding a few drops of eucalyptus oil in the water and guide your child to inhale the steam through their nose.
- Gargling –
Saline is known to cure pains. Add a teaspoon of salt water in warm water and ask your child to gargle three times a day. This provides relief from a scratchy and sore throat, and from the cough itself.
- Nose Blowing –
If the mucus accumulated in the nostrils is not cleared, it might move to the throat if your child breathes forcefully. Teach your child how to blow their nose from time to time.
- Humidifiers –
Less humid conditions lead to dry mucus in the throat and breathing passageways. This can result in irritation and dry cough. Although using humidifiers does not treat the cough itself, it helps in alleviating the symptoms and is one of the best dry cough remedies for kids. It is an effective way to ensure that your child’s breathing airways are clear and moist.
- Plenty Of Rest –
Getting enough rest will allow the body to heal faster. If your child is suffering from common cold, it is advisable to let them take a day off from school. The allergens in the environment outside home might aggravate the symptoms. Besides, there are chances that other children may contract the illness since this is an airborne infection. Children might get restless staying indoors, hence, keep them engaged in quiet activities like solving puzzles, playing video games, drawing, or colouring.
- Massage –
A relaxing massage stimulates the body to heal itself. Tui Na, an ancient Chinese massage therapy, is proven to be effective for treating all types of coughs.
- Keep Them Hydrated –
Drinking plenty of water leads to thinning of the mucus, hence, making it easier to exit the body easily. Drinking lots of fluids also help in flushing out the toxins from the body faster.
- Vapor Rub –
Vapor rub balms are made using herbal oils and fragrances which clear congestion from the airways. It is mostly used for alleviating wet and wheezing cough. Apply the balm over your child’s chest and massage gently using circular motions. Spreading the balm over the upper respiratory region will help in unclogging the mucus. You can also apply the vapor rub on their nose, neck or back for relief.
- Suction Bulb –
A suction bulb loosens and clears any mucus blocking the nasal passage. The correct way to use a suction bulb is to squeeze it before inserting the opening inside one of the nostrils. Next, gently release your grip on the bulb. This action pulls out whatever is clogging the airways.
- Resting The Head In An Upright Position –
When your child suffers from common cold, it might be difficult for them to breathe. The mucus-clearing from the body is influenced by the position of the head when your child coughs. Children who experience coughing fits should rest their heads in an upright position while sleeping. This limits the movement of mucus towards the throat. In order to ensure that the head is rested in an upright position, prop extra pillows under the head so that the head is higher than the rest of the body.
- Keep Your Surroundings Clean –
Common cold spreads easily. If your child has the condition, help them stay clean to avoid spreading the germs to the other children in the house. It is important to teach your children to wash their hands after coughing or blowing their nose immediately before they touch something. Teach them to cover their mouth while they sneeze or cough, and wash their hands immediately afterwards.
Home-Made Remedies With Medicinal Properties
Many Indian households still turn to home-made remedies for treating the common cold. These remedies are prepared using ingredients which have medicinal properties. Besides alleviating the symptoms and helping you to get back to normal, home-made remedies are free from side effects. Ready to take up the post of the in-house doctor? Let’s go!
- Honey And Lemon –
Add a tablespoon of honey and a few drops of lemon to a glass of lukewarm water. Mix well and make sure your child consumes it immediately. Honey and lemon are both very rich sources of Vitamin C, which is known for boosting immunity and fight off infections. Honey also helps in the coating and soothing your throat. Try to use Manuka honey since it has the most medicinal properties than any other honey.
- Ginseng –
Ginseng has many medicinal properties which help in treating upper respiratory tract infections. While it does not target the virus itself, it boosts your child’s immune system so that their body can fight off the infection effectively.
- Yogurt –
Yogurt is packed with healthy bacteria and assists with proper digestion. A healthy gut means a healthy child. Since your gut is always the first to be affected when you come in contact with an external bacterium, it is imperative to keep your intestines healthy. You should choose probiotic yoghurt without flavour and can consume it with citrus fruits rich in Vitamin C.
- Chicken Soup –
Chicken soup contains anti-inflammatory properties and soothes symptoms of common cold by decongesting the breathing airways, and by relieving cough and sore throat.
- Home-Made Concoction –
Prepare a concoction using one-fourth spoon grated ginger, one-fourth spoon cayenne pepper, a tablespoon each of apple cider vinegar and honey, and two tablespoons of water. Taking two tablespoons of this concoction will relieve cough. Ginger and apple cider vinegar make excellent ingredients for fighting coughs brought on by common cold as they have antibacterial properties. Cayenne pepper contains the chemical capsaicin which relieves throat pain. Since some of the ingredients have very strong flavours, you will have to mix them with honey before giving it to your child.
- Milk With Turmeric –
Add a teaspoon of turmeric powder to a glass of warm milk. Have your child drink this every night before bed. The warm milk soothes the body and turmeric has antiseptic properties which help in fight off viral infections. Hence, turmeric milk provides instant relief for a runny nose, and dry and aching throat. It is one of the best natural remedies for treating whooping cough in children.
- Home-Made Chest Rub –
You can use home-made chest rub on your little one instead of a medicated one. Heat two tablespoons of beeswax and half a cup of oil (almond, coconut or olive oil) in a boiler. After the beeswax melts, add five drops each of rosemary oil, eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, and clove or cinnamon oil and stir. Once all the oils and the beeswax are properly mixed, take the concoction off the heat and allow it to cool. Once the mixture has cooled off store it in a container. This balm can be applied over your child’s chest, throat, nose, neck, and back.
- Herbal Cough Syrup –
Add one-fourth cup each of chamomile flowers, grated ginger, marshmallow root, and tablespoon of cinnamon to a quart of water. Boil until the liquid becomes half the original quantity. Strain the rest of the liquid and simmer it further till it reduces to one cup of syrup. Add two tablespoons of vegetable glycerine and two cups of honey. This syrup can be refrigerated, but should not be stored without consumption for more than two months. One teaspoon of the syrup will alleviate symptoms of the common cold.
- Marshmallows –
Your kids will love you when you give them marshmallows during their illness! Marshmallows have strong therapeutic properties and can be used as the perfect antidote for relieving throat pain and throat infections.
- Onions –
Onions are packed with antibiotic and antiseptic properties and help in killing off bacteria. They are most effective when eaten raw, however, the flavour might be too strong for your child. Therefore, if you are cooking the onions, use very little water to prevent loss of nutrients and potency. You can also chop the onions in their raw state and mix it with honey if you do not want to cook it.
- Decaffeinated Herbal Tea –
Children can be given herbal teas for treating common cold. However, to ensure that the teas are in face decaffeinated, it is safer to make them at home. You can try a combination of these herbs with boiling water
- Mullein, horehound leaves, and thyme
- Lemon balm leaves
- Licorice root
- Hyssop leaves
- Cumin seeds, calamus, and cilantro
Make sure that boil these concoctions and strain them before giving it to your child
- Carom Seeds (Ajowan Caraway / Ajwain) –
Carom seeds have multiple uses. It is commonly used to treat cold and cough in children due to its anti-microbial properties that can relieve congestion. However, carom seeds need to be combined with other ingredients for best results. Start by boiling a teaspoon of carom seeds, half a teaspoon each of dried ginger powder and turmeric powder, eight to ten basil leaves, one clove, one-third cup of jaggery, and a pinch of ground pepper in half a cup of water for ten minutes. Strain the liquid and give a teaspoon to your child every day.
When Should You Consult A Medical Professional?
Usually, you can treat common cold at home by using natural home-made remedies and sometimes opting to take over-the-counter medications. However, if more severe symptoms present themselves in the form of high fever, shaking chills, vomiting, abdominal pain, difficulty in breathing, neck stiff, and chest pain, it is best to consult a doctor immediately.
Parents should consult a paediatrician immediately for infants who develop a fever or cold without trying to use home-remedies. It is best to get a medical evaluation if you have a fever and a sore throat without any of the other symptoms of the common cold. Get your child examined if they have a fever and complain of facial pain, or if there is any redness and swelling accompanied by a yellow or green discharge from the nostrils.
You should remember that common cold is caused by viruses. Hence, antibiotics will have no role in treating common cold as they are effective only against sicknesses caused by bacteria. Home remedies are one of the safest ways to treat common cold in children. However, it is important to check all the ingredients you use carefully to make sure that your child is not allergic to any of them and it is safe for them. Even more importantly, you should know when you can handle your child’s common cold using home remedies and when it is imperative to take them to the doctor.