Colds in children – what can you do yourself?
Förkylning hos barn – vad kan man göra själv?

Cold, cough and sometimes fever

Cold, cough and sometimes fever

Children who have colds are often out of sorts, tired, a little sad and fretful for the first few days. They usually have a blocked or runny nose and may have a swollen throat or ears. They may also get a mild cough and sometimes a fever.

Initially the mucus is usually clear and watery and after a few days it turns thicker and yellow or green.

Children feel poorliest during the first few days of the cold. After one or two weeks the cold will usually go away by itself. The common cold is caused by a virus, and there are no antiviral medicines that will help the child to get better more quickly.

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Children who are tired and have a fever should stay at home

Children who are tired and have a fever should stay at home

Children who have a fever or who are tired and out of sorts should stay at home and take it easy. Many children also need to stay at home during the first day that they are free from fever without having taken antipyretic medicines. They need to be well enough to cope with preschool or school.

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Rest is necessary

Rest is necessary

It is good to give the child the opportunity to rest, but he or she does not have to stay in bed. It is best to let the child decide whether to stay in bed or not.
A couple of extra pillows under the child's head can make it easier to breathe and sleep. This is especially effective for older children who lie still.

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Favourite food and extra fluids

Favourite food and extra fluids

Many children lose their appetite. Give the child what he or she wants, for example porridge, yoghurt or ice cream. If the child has a fever it is important to provide extra fluids.

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Salt solution or nasal spray for stuffy noses

Salt solution or nasal spray for stuffy noses

If the child has a blocked nose you can drip or spray salt solution in his or her nose, which will thin the mucus. This will also remove any remaining mucus in a gentle way. Salt solution is available from pharmacies. You can also make a solution yourself by dissolving a millilitre of salt in a decilitre of boiling water which is then left to cool. You can use a cotton ball to drip the solution into the child's nose.

If the nose is extremely blocked, you can give the child decongestant drops or a spray that will reduce the swelling in the nose. These medicines are available without a prescription and must not be used for more than ten days in a row. Nose sprays and drops are adapted to different ages, which are indicated on the packaging.

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Non-prescription antipyretic medicines

Non-prescription antipyretic medicines

A fever does not usually have to be treated with antipyretic medicines. Most children have a fever that lasts a few days. This is not necessarily of sign of a serious illness. You can give the child antipyretic medicine if he or she is suffering as a result of the fever, with symptoms including aches and pains, whining, lack of thirst and appetite, and having trouble sleeping or settling down at night.

You should not treat children under six months old without contacting the health services first.

For children over three months old there are medicines that contain paracetamol, for example Alvedon or Panodil. From the age of six months children can take Ipren, which is non-prescription and contains ibuprofen. These medicines are available as solutions or as suppositories with the right dosage for small children. For older children there are also tablets. Follow the instructions on the packaging carefully. Do not combine different medicines. Children under the age of 18 who have a fever should not use antipyretic medicines containing acetylsalicylic acid, for example Magnecyl, Treo or Albyl.

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Non-prescription cough medicines

Non-prescription cough medicines

Non-prescription cough medicines do not usually help. If the child has a cough it is important that he or she coughs up the mucus and clears his or her respiratory passages. Cough-relieving medicines make it harder for the child to cough up the mucus. It is unclear what kind of effect expectorant medicines have. Try relieving the cough with a warm or cold beverage instead. You should never give cough medicine to children under the age of two without consulting a doctor first.

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How to keep infection from spreading

How to keep infection from spreading

In order to avoid infecting others it is a good idea to teach your children to sneeze and cough in the crook of their arm and to use paper tissues. Make sure that they wash their hands several times a day. Also try to teach your children not to pick their noses or rub their eyes. Those are the areas where viruses can get stuck and spread. Infection can be reduced if children do not play nearby others who have colds. Let the children play outdoors as much as possible, even in winter.

Bear in mind that children who are subjected to tobacco smoke catch colds more easily.

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You may need to contact the healthcare services

You may need to contact the healthcare services

It is a good idea to pay extra attention to how your child is feeling. If the child has an extremely heavy cough or if the fever has not receded after four or five days you should contact your local healthcare centre.

If you suspect that your child has an inflammation of the ear the child should be examined at an emergency ward or local healthcare centre within 24 hours.
You should contact the healthcare services immediately if the child is lethargic, too tired to play and does not want to drink or is less than six months old.

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Publicerad:
2011-06-17
Skribent:

Written by: Elin Åkerblom, nurse, Stockholm

Granskare:

Reviewed by: Leif Ekholm, pediatrician, Barnhälsovården, Örebro