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Antenatal Classes

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  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52


The common cold is also referred to in medical terms as an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI). Colds are one of the most common illnesses and also lead to the greatest number of visits to doctors and absences from school per year. The average child will experience 6-8 colds per year. This number increases if they are attending day-care, nursery or are of school-going age (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Centre, 1999-2010; Collins, 2003; Leary, 1990).


What are colds?

Colds are a viral infection (there are more than 200 cold viruses) resulting in the  inflammation of the membranes lining the respiratory passages, larynx, ears, nose and throat. They also stimulate an increase in mucus production evident in a runny nose and postnasal drip. Sneezing (due to the irritation in the nose) and coughing (from the mucus dripping down the throat) are the body’s reflex defence mechanisms to clear the mucus. The above symptoms as well as the inflammation of the nasal passages account for the discomfort and generally unwell appearance of a child with a cold. Unlike flu, children with colds generally only have a low fever or none at all. They may experience a headache, slight aches and pains, watery eyes, mild fatigue and a sore throat (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Centre 1999-2010; Collins, 2003; Leary, 1990).


Treatment of colds

Colds are usually minor illnesses that will clear up on their own within a week. Symptoms can often successfully be managed at home without a doctor’s visit. You can help make your child more comfortable in the following ways:

·                Ensure his room is warm but not too hot.

·                Increase the amount of moisture in the atmosphere by using a vaporiser or cool mist humidifier or by placing a wet towel on a chair near a radiator. This helps relieve nasal stuffiness.

·                Colds increase your child’s needs for fluids, so give him plenty of liquids to drink to avoid dehydration. Fluids also assist in thinning the mucus discharged during a cold and            allow for it to be more easily removed through sneezing and coughing.

·                Infants in particular tend to breathe primarily through their nose, making it extremely difficult for them to nurse and feed when they have a cold. You can make them more comfortable by making some ‘nose drops’, using no more than a quarter teaspoon of salt to 225 ml of water. Use a plastic syringe to squirt a few drops into each nostril. The drops will serve to loosen the secretions and may stimulate coughing or sneezing. Use a rubber bulb syringe or nasal aspirator (available at pharmacies) to gently suck out the loosened secretions.

·                Elevate the head of your baby’s crib using a pillow or rolled up blanket to assist his breathing and lessen postnasal drip.

·                Give him smaller, more frequent feeds.

·                Since cold medications tend to make babies incredibly irritable, they should be avoided unless your baby has a fever.

·                Encourage older children to blow their noses frequently.

·                You may give your baby or child liquid paracetamol at an appropriate dose for their age and weight, to control fever or pain symptoms.

·                The use of over the counter cold remedies is not recommended in children due to the fact that they may have several adverse side-effects. Always consult your doctor before using any of these medications (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Centre, 1999-2010; Collins, 2003; Silberstein, 1997).


When to consult your doctor

Since colds are viral infections, they generally do not require antibiotic treatment. However, it is possible for your child to develop a secondary bacterial infection. If your child seems very sick or has any worrying symptoms with an URI (irritability, does not seem like himself, is unusually quiet or complains of pain), he should see a paediatrician. Similarly, take your child to the doctor if he has a persistent cough for 5 days, his symptoms last for longer than 10 days or if new symptoms develop. Seek medical assistance within 24 hours if your baby refuses to feed, has a temperature above 39°C and seems generally unwell. Babies under the age of 2 months should be seen within hours if they present with any of these symptoms. If your child is cranky and has a thick yellow discharge, it usually means a bacterial infection has set in and medical care is required. Since nasal secretions from a cold accumulate during the night, it is common for the discharge to appear yellow early in the morning. If the secretions become clear and watery during the rest of the day and your child is happy, it generally indicates a cold that is viral in nature (Collins, 2003; Leary, 1990, Silberstein, 1997).


What are the possible complications of a cold

·                If your child is asthmatic or prone to ear infections, he is more likely to have increased asthma symptoms or an ear infection with URIs.

·                Colds may spread into the bronchi or bronchioles of the lungs, causing illnesses like bronchitis or pneumonia.

·                The viral infection may also spread into the Eustachian tubes, causing inflammation of the ear or the sinuses, and resulting in sinusitis.

·                Pharyngitis, an inflammation of the throat, is often part of a common cold (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Centre, 1999-2010; Collins, 2003).