Colds: How long does it last in children and how to relieve symptoms

Colds: How long does it last in children and how to relieve symptoms
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Does the child have a cold? Nothing more physiological, especially during the winter season: the sudden changes in temperature, seasonal diseases and close contact with other children at school means that the most frequent of the upper respiratory tract infections recurs promptly every winter (and even different ones times!).

With Covid-19, the issue obviously becomes complicated: the symptoms of coronavirus infection and those typical of the flu coincide in many places. For parents it is difficult to distinguish them clearly, but in this article we will try to make the point to see clearly even with respect to one of the most popular questions for those who deal with seasonal ailments of the little ones: how long does a cold in children last? How to prevent upper respiratory tract infections? When should you worry?

Read also: 10 tips to strengthen the immune defenses of children

In this article

How long does a cold in children last

Colds in children last on average three or four days (one week maximum) in its acute phase and heals spontaneously. The variable intensity and the baby's immune system can obviously influence the duration of the infection and its evolution. Even though it is an infection of the airways with a very high contagion capacity (droplets of saliva or sneezing that spread in the air are enough) it has, in its most physiological form, few consequences.

According to an in-depth analysis by the pediatricians of the Bambin Gesù Hospital, there are as many as 200 viruses among those isolated that cause colds. This gives rise to the feeling on the part of the parents of children who attend the nursery or kindergarten, that their little ones are "always cold". The most common of the viruses that cause colds are the Rhinovirus (whose isolated variants are about 110), the virus ofinfluence, i Virus parainfluenza, the Coronaviruses. The cause of the cold is not so much the cold, even if it is an indirect cause: when the child is immersed in a very cold temperature, his eyelashes are unable to fulfill their main goal, which is to move to throw out the viruses that they circulate in the air, for example. And, of course, even closed and crowded environments meant that the child remained in contact with these harmful agents for a long time.

Common cold symptoms include:

  • Stuffed nose
  • Clear (serous) or yellowish (mucous) nasal discharge
  • Cough
  • Sneezing
  • Feeling tired
  • Headache

The consequences of a cold

If three or four days is the average duration of a cold in its most acute phase, however, there are symptoms that anticipate the aggravation of the infection which, from the upper respiratory tract, can transfer to the lower ones. A discharge of mucus into the ear canal can also cause otitis media; in turn, otitis not treated perfectly can cause hearing loss due to a form of otitis called catarrhal. 

When to worry

Better to consult the pediatrician if the cold symptoms worsen, the child has a fever that lasts even for several days, if the little one shows earache. When the baby has a persistent cold and is less than three months old it is always best to consult the doctor in any case.

How to distinguish the symptoms of Covid-19 from those of the common cold

Cold, flu, Covid-19: how to distinguish the symptoms in children? Since the outbreak of the pandemic, this is probably one of the most popular questions from parents. If earlier a fever or cough in children were attributable to normal seasonal ailments, today, unfortunately, we have to deal with Sars-CoV-2. Which has practically the same symptoms as a flu or parainfluenza virus, at least in its milder manifestations. 

According to the document of the Ministry of Health, the symptoms of Covid-19 are often attributable to those of the common cold:

  • fever greater than 37,5 ° C and chills
  • cough 
  • breathing difficulties
  • sudden loss of smell (anosmia) or decreased sense of smell (iposmia), loss of taste (ageusia) or change in taste (dysgeusia)
  • a runny nose
  • sore throat
  • diarrhea (especially in children)

According to the guidelines for the correct tracking of Covid-19 cases, the only way to exclude or confirm the positivity of a subject is to nasopharyngeal swab. The contact with a positive patient of the child (for example in the family or at school) and the appearance of symptoms can be an excellent alarm bell to start the procedure of investigation using a swab.

According to a recent study, in the future and thanks to massive anti-Covid vaccinations, the virus will become a common cold. This means that the submissiveness of the virus will allow us to equate it to those of the coronavirus strain with which we have lived up to now without particular consequences on health and mortality.

Read also: the future of Covid-19? It could become a common cold according to a study

The most effective remedies to cure colds

8 natural remedies if your child has a cold

  • Carefully moisturize the baby
  • frequent nasal washings
  • head raised during sleep
  • humidify the environment
  • help the immune system with rest ...
  • ... and with a healthy diet
  • honey to soothe (after one year of age)
  • better not to use medicines and let the cold run its course

Giving the cold its way to run its course is the most effective therapy. Antibiotic therapies or other cold medications are not ideal for helping the baby breathe better. Among the most effective natural methods is that - very simple - of moisturize the baby: this allows the mucus to thin naturally so as to be easily thrown out and allow the baby to breathe better.

Nasal washings

The most effective remedy is also the one most "feared" by children: nasal washes. Constantly cleaning the airways (even when the baby has mild symptoms) is one of the simplest ways to help get rid of them. Alternatively, aerosol can be done with physiological solution.

Proteinated silver and argotone against colds: are they needed?

These two preparations are often used as cold remedies to relieve or inflame the upper respiratory tract. But there is no scientific evidence on their effectiveness, on the contrary: AIFA has analyzed the risks in various documents.

Sources for the article: Ministry of Health, "What is the new coronavirus"; Bambin Gesù Pediatric Hospital, "Colds"; AIFA, "Nasal decongestants: the risks outweigh the benefits in children".

Read also: Aerosol therapy and children

  • cold
  • fever
  • coronavirus
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