Frequent colds and coughs in children
Why do children get frequent colds and coughs?
Frequent colds and coughs are very common in school going children. There are two important causes of frequent colds and coughs. One is infections and the other allergies.
Children usually get frequent colds and coughs from simple viral infections. There are several viruses that can cause common cold and cough. These are acquired from contact with other infected children. Children can have 6 to 8 episodes of mild infections per year.
Allergic causes of cold and cough include inhaled allergens including dust mites, pollen, animals, moulds and cockroaches.
When can parents suspect allergies as a cause of symptoms?
Allergies can be suspected as a cause of the symptoms if the cold and cough symptoms are prolonged or associated with symptoms suggestive of allergy. For example, in case of symptoms like sneezing, itching eyes and nose, breathlessness and wheeze, allergies should be suspected as the cause of symptoms.
What is the treatment of these symptoms?
Simple cold and cough can be treated with household treatments like hot water, lemon and honey etc.
Cold and cough syrups do not provide cure but only symptomatic relief for short period. There is a tendency to overuse cold and cough syrups. They can cause unpleasant side effects like drowsiness, thickening of the secretions etc. They should be used only when symptoms are troublesome; for example, when there is difficulty in breathing, sleeping or feeding.
Colds and coughs due to allergies must be treated with anti-allergy medications.
When should parents see the doctor?
- Parents should consult doctor when the symptoms are prolonged or troublesome.
- The troublesome symptoms include persistent nose block, mouth breathing, snoring and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea (child stops breathing suddenly and wakes up).
- Symptoms suggestive of allergic rhinitis like sneezing, itchy nose and eyes.
- Symptoms suggestive of asthma like breathlessness and wheeze.
How can these frequent colds and coughs be prevented?
- Hand hygiene prevents spread from one person to another; be it at home or school.
- Taking vaccines at appropriate time prevents severe infections.
- Avoiding sending children to school during infections. This helps to prevent spread to other children.
- As children get frequently exposed to infections, their immune system matures and these infections reduce in severity and frequency.
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