The common cold is caused by an infection in the upper respiratory system that affects the ears, nose, and throat. The rhinovirus is the most common virus that causes colds, but there are two hundred different viruses responsible for common colds around the world. Because of the variety of different strains, it is not possible to vaccinate against colds. The best solution is to boost the immune system.

Regardless of this fact, a vast majority of doctors’ visits from children are due to colds. Most children will catch as many as eight colds a year, with each one lasting up to one week. Children are more susceptible to colds due to lack of sanitary precautions and close contact with other children. Cold viruses spread through coughs and sneezes, carried by the mucus that is ejected from the carrier. When the infected person expels mucus, those who breathe in the droplets or touch them can quickly become infected. This is one of the reasons that hand washing is important.

Once the cold virus is inside a child’s nose, there are docking points that help it to hold on. It will begin to multiply quickly. The cold virus can be fought off by the body’s white cells, but it takes seven days during which you will have a runny nose and frequent sneezes. These may be annoying, but they actually prevent the virus from moving further into your child’s body. A sneeze happens when your body detects a foreign object in the nose or throat and uses the lungs to force it out.

Regardless of how the immune system protects against the virus spreading, once your child is infected, they have to deal with a cold. The symptoms may take two to three days to develop, showing up as crankiness, headaches, blocked nose, coughs, sneezing, muscle aches, sore throat, and general exhaustion. In some cases, body chills and a mild fever may also be present. Most medical treatments for the cold only address symptoms, as such, they do not shorten the length of the cold.

Parents should supervise the medication that is being given and follow any prescription notes that are given by the doctor. Decongestants and antihistamines may be given to help with breathing and the reduction of runny noses, while pain relievers may be given for muscle pain and headaches. Hot beverages and foods like soup can help to soothe a sore throat, and steamy showers are great for stuffed up noses. Humidifiers that spray cool air and mist is helpful for itchy eyes and sore throats as well. Encourage your child to rest for a day or two and blow their nose frequently while they are recovering.

While there is no vaccine to prevent the common cold, a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet will help to create a strong immune system. Staying active and getting enough sleep will also help. Children with high levels of stress or compromised immune system are more likely to get colds more frequently. Keeping this in mind will ensure fewer colds and better long-term results for your child’s health.