First Aid

    Kids can get eight colds a year — or more. The common cold sends more kids to the doctor than any other illness. Most colds are caused by a virus found in the air and on the things we touch. Antibiotics can't treat viruses, but you can help your child feel better.

    What Are the Signs & Symptoms of a Cold?

    • stuffy or runny nose (may start out watery, then turn thick yellow or green)
    • itchy or sore throat
    • sneezing
    • cough
    • headache
    • mild fever
    • feeling tired
    • eating less

    What to Do

    • Ease discomfort with:
      • acetaminophen or ibuprofen as needed if your child is older than 6 months
      • a cool-mist humidifier or steamy bathroom
      • saline (saltwater) drops for a congested nose
      • gentle suction of nasal mucus using a bulb syringe when necessary
    • Offer lots of liquids — breast milk or formula for babies; water and diluted juice for older kids, but no caffeinated beverages.
    • Never give cough or cold medicine to children under 6 years old. Call a doctor first for older kids.
    • Never give aspirin to a child.

    Get Medical Care if Your Child Has:

    • cold symptoms that get worse or last more than a week
    • cough and congestion triggered by pollen, dust, pets, etc.
    • a barking cough or a cough that is severe and happens in spasms
    • trouble breathing
    • a high fever and appears ill; or any fever in a baby 3 months old or younger
    • a sore throat that makes it hard to eat and drink
    • a bad headache

    Think Prevention!

    Remind kids to:

    • avoid anyone who has a cold
    • avoid smokers (secondhand smoke increases kids' risk of getting sick)
    • wash their hands well and often, especially after nose-blowing and playing with other kids
    • sneeze and cough into shirtsleeves or tissues — not hands
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2023 KidsHealth® All rights reserved. Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and