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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 if your child is over the age of one and weighs 7 kg (15 lbs) or over.

Encourage all the family to wash their hands to prevent the spread of colds from infected secretions.

We are indebted to Health Promotion England for their help in compiling this section.