Common Cold in Children: Tips for Keeping Your Child Healthy

May 10th, 2024 | 10:57 am

Children are often the ones who contract common cold viruses because their immune systems have not developed and cannot resist the infection from the virus. Hence, they mostly suffer from the common cold, which calls for the right approach to avoid this viral infection. Here, we will examine a few tips that you can resort to to keep your child healthy.

Helping Your Child Feel Better

Doctors can’t cure the common cold with special medicines since colds are caused by viruses. But there are lots of things you can do at home to help your child feel relieved from symptoms until their immune system fights it:

  • Use saltwater nose drops or sprays to loosen up mucus so it can drain out more easily.
  • Run a cool-mist humidifier in your child’s room to add moisture to the air and help clear stuffiness.
  • Put petroleum jelly under the nose to soothe rawness from frequent nose-blowing.
  • Give your child hard candy or cough drops if they are over six years old to help with a sore throat.
  • Use a heating pad on aches and pains. This warmth can soothe them.
  • Many people believe that hot soup can help colds. While it may not cure them, the steam can be soothing and the soup has ingredients that help thin out mucus so it’s easier to cough up.

The most important thing is to ensure your child gets plenty of rest & drinks lots of fluids like water, juice, or broth to stay hydrated as their body fights off the virus.

When to Call the Doctor?

You’ll want to call the doctor right away if your child seems to have more than just a routine cold or if:

  • Their cough brings up a lot of thick mucus
  • They seem to be struggling to breathe normally
  • They seem much more tired and sluggish than a regular cold
  • They can’t keep any foods or liquids down
  • They have bad headaches that don’t go away
  • Their throat is so sore they can barely swallow
  • They have chest or stomach pains
  • Their lymph nodes (glands) in the neck area are swollen
  • They develop an earache

Things like croup, the flu, bronchitis, or pneumonia need medical treatment. Don’t wait to get help if your child’s symptoms are severe or last too long.

Tips for Staying Healthy in Cold & Flu Season

When the weather turns colder, that means more time spent inside close together, allowing those pesky cold and flu viruses to spread around easily. Young kids under 5, and especially under 2, catch more colds since their baby immune systems are still learning how to fight off germs.

While you can’t completely prevent your child from getting sick, a few simple steps can help keep their immune system strong and lower their chances of catching every bug that goes around. It starts with plenty of fluids!

  1. Keep Your Child Hydrated

Drinking lots of fluids is so important when your child has a cold or flu. Their little bodies can get dehydrated easily from the fever, stuffy nose, and mucus. The fluids help thin out the mucus so they can cough and blow it out more easily.

Your child may not feel as thirsty when they’re sick, so you’ll need to remind and encourage them to keep sipping on drinks throughout the day. Great options include:

  • Water
  • Juice
  • Broth
  • Flat white sodas or ginger ales
  • Pedialyte or other oral rehydration drinks (check with your doctor first)
  • Popsicles

For babies under 3 months old, encourage them to breastfeed or bottle feed even more often than usual since they can get dehydrated very quickly. Call the doctor if your infant seems dehydrated and has:

  • No tears when crying
  • Dry lips and mouth
  • The soft spot on their head looks sunken in
  • Much fewer wet diapers than normal
  • Seems sluggish and very tired
  1. Clear that Stuffed-Up Nose

An all-stuffed-up nose makes it hard for little ones to drink and eat properly, so clearing it out is a top priority for comfort. For babies and young kids, avoid medicated nose sprays, as those aren’t recommended.

Instead, run a cool-mist humidifier or vaporiser in their room to loosen up the mucus and make it easier to drain or get suctioned out. You can also use over-the-counter saline nose drops or sprays to thin things out before suctioning. These both work great before naps, bedtime, and mealtimes.

  1. Honey for Coughs (But Not for Babies)

For kids over 1 year old, honey can be an all-natural cough soother. You can give them 2-5 mL of honey a few times throughout the day. Studies show it works better and safer than over-the-counter cough medicines.

But don’t give any honey at all to infants before their first birthday, as it can rarely cause a serious illness called botulism in babies.

  1. Rest Up to Fight the Germs

The more time your child can spend resting and recharging, the sooner their body can get over that cold or flu. Take it easier for a few days, let them sleep as much as needed, and don’t over-schedule any activities. Dress your child in light, breathable layers so they don’t overheat if the fever spikes up. Try giving them a lukewarm bath before bedtime to help them relax into sleep mode when sick.

  1. Stay Active

While it’s tempting to just hunker down inside all winter, getting regular exercise and outdoor time can work wonders. Low-intensity activity helps circulate infection-fighting white blood cells through the body more effectively. Just make sure kids are bundled up appropriately for cold weather conditions.

  1. Limit Sugar Intake

Diets high in processed sugars and refined carbs can dampen immune responses by allowing inflammation to persist. When possible, swap out sugary juices, sodas and sweets for fresh fruits, veggies and proteins.


No parent can completely prevent their child from catching colds, as much as we might wish it were possible. Those tiny virus particles are going to find a way into little noses and throats eventually, no matter how diligent we are.

What we can control, however, is how prepared and proactive we are in both preventing excessive illness and providing comfort when colds do strike. Prioritising sleep, hydration, nutrition and low-stress lifestyles build up our children’s immune defences. Practising good hygiene habits like frequent handwashing goes a long way, too.

This blog has been verified by Dr. Rentala Naveen, MBBS, MD (Paediatrics), IDPCCM, Paediatric Intensivist and Neonatologist.