Common Cold in Children

Disclaimer: Not medical or professional advice. Always seek the advice of your physician.

Symptoms of Common Cold in Children

If you know the symptoms of a common cold, then you can easily figure out when to see a doctor and when the child's body can recover on its own. In this article, you will learn the answers to the following questions.

  • How long is the incubation period for a cold? When can a child infect other people?
  • What are the types and causes of cough when having a cold?
  • Is fever dangerous with colds?

What Сauses the Сommon Сold?

90% of all infectious diseases are caused by upper respiratory infections (colds). When a virus enters the body, the organs and the immune system do not immediately recognize that the host cell is invaded. Doctors describe the term “incubation period” as the time between a virus entering a person's body and the first appearance of symptoms. The typical incubation period for a cold in children is 1 to 3 days, depending on the type of virus. At this point, the child may be contagious without any clinical manifestations. Hence, we cannot know how many people around us are contagious and spread the virus at the moment.

How Long do Colds Last?

  • 1-3 days — acute reaction to the virus. This stage is characterized by the synthesis of protective cells together with the secretion of mucus and viruses. Our protective cells like lymphocytes, leukocytes, macrophages enter the place affected by the virus.
  • 3-4 days — the body manages to develop protection and activates the process of recovery.
  • 5-6 days — the condition gradually starts to improve, most of the clinical symptoms disappear, the mucus changes its color.
  • 7-10 days — recovery without any specific treatment. Some children continue to have a cough and runny nose for more than 10 days. Besides, a child may develop a second cold as the symptoms of the first cold are resolving. This fact makes it seem as if the illness lasts for months. However, you do not need to worry if the child has no other symptoms.

In most cases, the patient stops being contagious within 5-7 days after the onset of the disease. While in some infections or immunodeficiency, a child can be infectious for up to 2 weeks. 

Common Signs of Colds in Children

  • Rhinitis is an inflammation of the nasal mucosa. In response to the penetration of the virus, the mucous membrane may swell and turn red. This is a normal inflammatory reaction that leads to nasal breathing impairment. Also, the symptoms include a runny nose, which produces clear mucus abundantly in the first few days after the onset. On the 3-4th days, the mucus changes in consistency, turning white, yellow, or even green. This is a normal phenomenon, and there is no reason to get scared. Dry air cause mucus to become thicker, which can result in clogged nasal passages. The function of nasal mucus is to remove viruses and dead cells from the body.
  • Inflammation of the larynx or trachea (laryngitis, laryngotracheitis). The most common symptom is hoarseness and a persistent, dry cough.
  • Pharyngitis is the inflammation of the mucous membranes of the pharynx. It is manifested by erythema and swelling of the posterior pharyngeal wall; nonproductive, persistent cough; sore throat.
  • Tonsillitis (quinsy) refers to inflammation of the pharyngeal tonsils that causes a sore throat. It is critical to distinguish viral from bacterial tonsillitis as they have completely different treatment strategies. The type of sore throat can be identified using an express test.
  • Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchi. Symptoms include a cough, nasal congestion, headache, shortness of breath, and fever. Purulent sputum does not confirm that the infection is bacterial in origin and requires antibiotics. The cough can last up to 3, 4, and 5 weeks. However, treatment should remain symptomatic.
  • Types of Cough with Common Cold
  • A dry cough often occurs at the very beginning of the disease and gradually turns into a wet cough.
  • A wet cough may feel like a lot of phlegm stuck in the chest, triggering a cough reflex. It is the most common symptom of upper respiratory infections.
  • Barking cough. This type of cough is a typical symptom of false croup. It gets worse at night and is accompanied by changes in voice and respiratory failure. It also occurs with laryngitis without difficulty breathing.
  • Paroxysmal cough. It is most likely to happen in pertussis (whooping cough) and parapertussis. It is characterized by a series of rapid exhalations, followed by a deep loud breath.

When you visit your doctor, it is important to describe the type of the cough, its duration, frequency during the day. You can record the cough on video.

4 Types of Cough

Causes of Cough with Common Cold

  • Mucus draining down the back of the pharynx.
  • Sore throat — coughing moisturizes the mucous membrane of the throat.
  • Respiratory tract damage. Coughing removes dead viruses/bacteria and cells from the body.
  • Warning Signs of Cough in Children
  • The cough was not caused by a cold.
  • It lasts more than 6 weeks after the illness.
  • The cough progresses (rather than reduces) after the illness.
  • Coughing is accompanied by increased breathing rate, retraction of the hypochondria
  • Paroxysmal/barking cough

You should take your child to the doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.

Is Fever Dangerous With a Cold in Children?

There is a special part of our brain that is responsible for body temperature. Fever is the body's normal response to infection. It is a natural defense mechanism. There is no point in fighting a symptom of the disease.

Hence, parents do not need to check the temperature all the time. It is critical to assess the child’s general state of health, appetite, environmental conditions.

  • Colds do not always cause fever, and this is not a sign of immunodeficiency or a strong immune system.
  • Fever does not worsen the course of the disease, and temperature lowering does not reduce morbidity or mortality from the disease.
  • Temperature above 110 F is considered dangerous in terms of adverse physiological effects.

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