Cough and cold in children: what to do?

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Cough and cold in children

Coolings e upper respiratory tract inflammation (URI) represent one of the most frequent causes that lead to consult the pediatrician. Particularly from the beginning of autumn and until it gets cold.
What can be done to better manage and prevent them? We asked , director of the bronchopneumology of the Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital of the city and president of the Society of the Paesena infantile respiratory diseases.


8 natural remedies if your child has a cold

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Stuffed nose and frequent sneezing can be a nuisance for a baby, but the solution, especially at an early age, is not to be found in drugs. Here then ...

In this article

  • My son is always sick 
  • What do I do? How to behave?
  • What to do when the nose is runny or stuffy 
  • Help: the child has a cough 
  • The importance of convalescence
  • Sore throat
  • The importance of sleep
  • The importance of a healthy diet
  • The importance of physical activity
  • The importance of washing your hands
  • The importance of being outdoors 
  • The importance of breathing clean air
  • The importance of the annual flu shot
Read also: Why do children who go to daycare get sick often?

1. My child is always sick

Young children, in preschool age (therefore up to 6 years old), have on average 6 episodes of upper respiratory tract infections per year: cough, cold, sore throat. But upper respiratory tract infections can be even more frequent, even once a month, in the period between September and April. In this case we speak of recurrent respiratory infections (IRR): a clinical picture that is not unusual in pediatric age. In particular, the most affected are children who attend nursery school. Moreover, the immune system of children, in the very first years of life, is not fully mature.
"The child does not yet have an immunological memory because he has yet to know the germs present in the environment and where there are more children, more germs circulate. This is why they get sick more often." However, by the time they reach primary school, they are less vulnerable to the defense mechanisms developed in previous years.

Read also: Colds, flu, Covid: how to distinguish symptoms in children

2. What do I do? How to behave?

It is understandable for a parent to worry, even more so if you are a beginner. "But we can reassure them," says Cutrera.

"It is completely normal for a child to experience mild episodes of colds and inflammation throughout the year without fever or with a mild fever that lasts no more than 48 hours, with a cough that comes and goes for a few days and a while. 'of cold that lasts a week at the most. In this case it is not necessary to run to the pediatrician ".

Instead, it is advisable to consult it "if the cold lasts longer, if the cough persists every day for 4 weeks (it can be the alarm bell that something is wrong), in case of high fever, which does not go away after three days and compromises the general state, so the child is not very alert ".

Read also: How is acute cough recognized?

3. What to do when the nose is runny or stuffy

The cold is one of the most frequent inflammations of the upper respiratory tract. It is normally characterized by obstruction, congestion, dripping and nasal discharge due to viral infections of the upper respiratory tract. It can usually be cured with nasal aspiration and nasal washes with saline solutions. Avoid using antihistamines, nasal decongestants, expectorants or antitussives, especially in younger children, due to possible side effects.

4. Help: the child has a cough

Cough is a defense mechanism. The most frequent form in children is acute: a discomfort that typically resolves in 4-5 days. To alleviate it, non-pharmacological remedies can be used, such as drinking a lot: liquids have an emollient effect, making the mucus fluid and therefore more easily eliminated. It can also be helpful to try to humidify the environment to moisten the airways and dissolve the phlegm.

5. The importance of convalescence

However, in the case of recurrent respiratory infections (so if the child gets sick several times during the winter, even once / twice a month), "the pediatrician can evaluate the opportunity to intervene with an immunomodulating agent to strengthen the immune defenses" he explains. Cutrera. Which also underlines the importance of convalescence: "it is necessary to give the body the necessary time to recover and to recharge its immune system again and convalescence is the best medicine. For this reason, in the most serious and persistent cases, it is advisable to suspend frequenting the nursery for a while ".

Read also: Sore throat in children

6. Sore throat

Sore throat, understood as a painful sensation localized to the pharynx, and in particular acute pharyngitis, is also one of the most common inflammations in pediatric age.
The most common cause of sore throat is viral pharyngitis, while among the bacterial forms streptococcal pharyngitis is the most frequent and in about half of cases it begins in a sub-clinical form, that is without obvious clinical signs, which is why they always go assessed the possible associated symptoms (fever, respiratory difficulty, rapid onset) and a throat swab should be performed, obviously on the recommendation of your pediatrician, to assess the need for antibiotic therapy, because it is precisely an examination to diagnose the forms of sore bacterial throat.

Otherwise, viral pharyngitis tends to pass by itself in a few days, without the need for drugs. But if necessary, always on the advice of the pediatrician, you can resort to the administration of paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen) to relieve pain or in case of high fever. Good hydration is important: so make sure you drink plenty of water.

7. The importance of sleep

Children (but this also applies to us adults) must get enough sleep because the lack of sleep, especially if chronic, lowers the immune system. "It weakens the organism, and consequently we are less ready to defend ourselves from viruses and bacteria that lurk," explains Cutrera.

8. The importance of a healthy diet

In particular, make sure that your daily meals always include fruit and vegetables, the consumption of which is good for the supply of vitamins with antiviral effects. To avoid soft drinks and foods with too much sugar that slow down the immune function.

Read also: Cough in children: types, causes, natural remedies, medications

9. The importance of physical activity

Because exercise reactivates blood circulation by boosting immune function.

10. The importance of washing your hands

Frequent and careful washing can counteract the circulation of germs.

11. The importance of being outdoors

Even in winter: because by dressing properly the cold does not hurt. So it is much better to cover up well and get out of the house for a while, than to stay closed in a nice warm environment where viruses proliferate and spread more easily.

Read also: Ailments of the season, the answers to the most common questions of mothers

12. The importance of breathing clean air

"Do not expose your children to second-hand smoke and avoid taking them with the stroller in streets with high traffic density. Furthermore, if you live in very busy areas and especially on the first floors, take advantage of the night hours to ventilate", advises the doctor.

13. The importance of the annual flu shot

"It is certainly indicated as a form of active prevention of upper respiratory tract infections for those children who have chronic diseases, therefore they are more vulnerable patients" explains Cutrera.

To learn more:

  • cough in children
  • cough in children and medications
  • what is the most frequent cough in children
  • how to treat a cough
  • phlegm in children
  • cough and cold in children: 13 things to know
Read also: Do ​​children who go to the nursery get too sick?

Questions and answers

Is there a way to prevent the spread of viruses?

The simplest way to avoid the transmission of viruses and bacteria is to always wash your hands. Washing should be done with soap and water and should take 15 to 30 seconds.

Why does cough increase during the night?    

The sleeping position favors the deposition of mucus along the respiratory tract, one of the main stimuli capable of triggering a cough.

Is humidity good or bad for coughing?  

In case of cough, it is useful to humidify the environment so that it is not too dry and to increase the daily water supply, so that the mucous membranes are perfectly hydrated.

  • cough
  • cold
  • pediatrician
  • 3-5 children years
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