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Cold and flu in Children

by Jan Sher

One of the most common disease with which children visits paediatrician. It is related to respiratory infection in which children present with upper respiratory problems like sore throat, coughing, sneezing and fever. Among all illnesses among children, common cold results in missed school days and frequent clinic visits. It usually affects children of around or less than 6years of age, as the age progresses the immunity builds up and leads to less severe and less frequent cold and cough. It is seen more during winter season and post rainy weather. In last two years, during COVID-19 pandemic, mostly children were confined to houses and are less exposed to external environment,so the chances of catching infection also becomes less, now when outdoor activities are increased and schools are open, the chances of catching infection increases with more and more presentation of viral cough and cold nowadays.

What causes common cold?

It is caused by virus called rhinovirus which affects the lining of upper respiratory tract leading to irritation in upper throat. It spreads via different modes like airborne in which the virus is there in droplets when an affected person sneezes, by direct contact like touching the surfaces by contaminated fingers/hands as small kids are more in habit of touching nose, mouth more frequently or via fomites like sharing of infection carrying towel, hanky etc. In daycare or schools classroom, when one child sneezes it spreads/sheds virus particles in air which leads to infection among others also and as children are not in habit of washing hands before meals so they catches infection more frequently.

Symptoms of common cold and flu:-

The most common symptoms are tickly throat, running/stuffed nose, congestion, bodyaches, headache, watery eyes, chills and sneezing. The infants usually presents with congested nose and increased body temperature. The symptoms start after 2-3days of exposure of infection i.e the incubation period of common cold or flu. Symptoms last for one week or ten days but in few children with weak immunity the symptoms could last around two weeks also.

How to treat common cold?

As this is a viral infection, so it has no role of antibiotics. Antibiotics are only given when there is excess sore throat and there is super added infection in throat or infection has affected the lower respirtatory tract. Same is with oral steroids, which should strictly not to be given. The child recovers on his own depending on the immunity of his body, those with good immunity recovers well within 7 days whereas with lower or weak immunity make take next few more days.

Plenty of fluids in form of juices, soups, oral fluids should be encouraged. The children skips meals due to sore throat but that should be avoided, just offer him light semi-solid food so that it doesn’t cause any pain in swallowing. If child is having fever >100C then he should be given oral antipyretics like paracetamol, ibugesic, crocin etc. For congested nose, oral antihistaminics like cetrizine, phenyepinephrine etc. could also be given but only after consultation of your best pediatrician in sector 57 Gurgaon.

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