- Runny or stuffed nose
- The nasal discharge may be clear, cloudy, yellow or green
- Usually associated with fever and sore throat
- Sometimes associated with a cough, hoarseness, red eyes, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- Cause: Colds are caused by viruses. Influenza is just a bad cold with more fever and muscle aches. Healthy children average 6 colds a year.
See More Appropriate Topic
- If runny nose caused by allergies, see Hay Fever
- If cough is the main symptom, see Cough
- If over age 5 and pain around the eye or over the cheekbone, see Sinus Pain/Congestion
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
- Your child looks or acts very sick
- Difficulty breathing not relieved by cleaning out the nose
- Fever > 104°F (40°C)
- Age is less then 12 weeks with fever > 100.4°F (38°C) rectally
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 and 4) If
- You think your child needs to be seen
- Earache or cloudy discharge from ear canal
- Yellow or green eye discharge
- Sinus pain or pressure (around cheekbone or eyes)
- Severe sore throat present > 24 hours
- Fever present > 3 days
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
- You have other questions or concerns
- Fever returns after going away > 24 hours
- Blocked nose interferes with sleep after using nasal washes several times
- Yellow scabs around the nasal openings
- Nasal discharge present > 10 days
Parent Care at Home If
- Mild cold and you don’t think your child needs to be seen
Home Care Advice for Colds
- For a Runny Nose With Profuse Discharge: Blow or Suction the Nose.
- The nasal mucus and discharge is washing viruses and bacteria out of the nose and sinuses.
- Blowing the nose is all that’s needed. For younger children use suction.
- Apply petroleum jelly to the nasal openings to protect them from irritation (cleanse the skin first).
- For a Blocked Nose: Use Nasal Washes.
- Use warm water OR saline nose drops to loosen up the dried mucus followed by blowing or suctioning. Instill 2-3 drops in each nostril. (Caution: if < 1 year old, use 1 drop at a time) Do 1 side at a time. Repeat nosedrops until clear. Do nasal washes at least 4 times a day or whenever your child can’t breathe through the nose.
- Saline nosedrops – add 1/2 teaspoon of table salt to 1 cup (8 oz.) of warm water.
- Importance: A young infant can’t nurse or drink from a bottle unless the nose is open.
- Note: Most stuffy noses are blocked by dried/sticky mucus and suction alone or blowing their nose cannot remove it.
- Humidifier. If the air in your home is dry, use a humidifier.
- Medicines: Most cold medicines are not helpful. They can’t remove dried mucus from the nose. Antihistamines are only helpful if your child also has nasal allergies. Antibiotics are not helpful unless your child develops an ear or sinus infection.
- Fever – Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for muscle aches, headaches, or fever > 102°F (39° C).
- Sore Throat – Use warm chicken broth for > 1 year old and hard candy for >4 years old.
- Cough – Use cough drops for children over 4 years old, and corn syrup (2 to 5 ml) for younger children over 1 year old.
- Red Eyes – Rinse eyelids frequently with wet cotton balls.
- Contagiousness: Your child can return to day care or school after the fever is gone and your child feels well enough to participate in normal activities. For practical purposes, the spreading of colds cannot be prevented.
- Expected Course: Fever 2-3 days, nasal discharge 7-10 days, cough 2-3 weeks.
- Call Your Doctor If
- Your child becomes worse or develops any of the “Call Your Doctor Now” symptoms
- Fever lasts > 3 days
- Nasal discharge lasts > 10 days
- Cough lasts > 3 weeks