Home > Kids > Ear, Nose & Throat > Common Cold

Common Cold

What is a common cold?

Common cold is an infection of the nose and throat. It is usually caused by a virus. It is the most common infectious illness among young children with the highest rate during the first 2 years. Most children catch several ‘colds’ in a year. The rate is even higher among those who stay in institutions like nursery, kindergarten, welfare home and school.

What are the signs & symptoms of a common cold?

Common symptoms are:

  • Cough.
  • Fever.
  • Sore Throat.
  • Breathing difficulty.
  • Runny nose, initially clear then become thicker, yellow and sometimes green.
  • Breathing with mouth open due to blocked nose.

Associated symptoms include:

  • Sneezing.
  • Seems tired.
  • Headache.
  • Poor appetite.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea.

Can common cold lead to more serious complications?

It may extend to a middle ear infection or cause fluid to accumulate in the middle ear.

What is the treatment for common cold?

Common cold is a self-limiting disease. No specific treatment is required. The aim of therapy is to make the child feel comfortable. Important steps include:

  • Adequate rest.
  • Plenty of water intake.
  • Healthy food.
  • Paracetamol to relieve the fever and make them comfortable.
  • Antibiotics have no role to cure or shorten the duration of illness.

Steps to relieve a blocked nose include:

  • Installation of saline nasal drop before feed or bed.
  • In bad cases, decongestant medicines, but be aware of side effects like irritability, drowsiness, restlessness and difficulty with sleeping.
  • Use of a manual mucous extractor for more difficult cases.

Aspirin is contraindicated to a young person less than 15 years old. It is associated with a rare but very serious illness called “Reye’s syndrome”.

Can common cold be prevented?

It is almost impossible to prevent common cold but there are ways to minimize the rate of spreading the infection:

  • Do not to be in close contact with an infected person.
  • Wash hands before eating and after touching the nose.
  • Use disposable hand towels rather than handkerchiefs.
  • Teach children to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing and wash their hands straight after.
  • If anyone has a cold, they should stay away from childcare centers or schools. Try not to pass it on to other people.
  • Eat healthy food and follow a healthy life style.

Vaccine is available only for some specific viral strains. It is not practical in Malaysia as the viruses that can cause common cold are present throughout the year. Furthermore, it is not cost effective.

Last reviewed : 26 April 2012
Content Writer : Dr. Norrashidah Hj. Abd Wahab
: Dr. Nor Mahani Harun
Reviewer : Dr. Norzila bt. Mohamed Zainudin