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Tips From Dr. Deborah Vicario – What To Do When Your Child Has A Cold & Cough

February 13, 2013

Children can develop colds or upper respiratory infections between 3 to 7 times a year. Most of these infections are viral, meaning an antibiotic will not help. Most viral, upper respiratory infections typically improve within 10-14 days, even without an antibiotic.


When should a parent be concerned about a child’s cough? When should you take your child to a doctor?Oftentimes when your child develops an upper respiratory infection, a cough will develop with it. A cough that is developed with an upper respiratory infection improves within 14 days, though a cough can last 3-4 weeks. Even if your child does get an antibiotic or other treatments, the cough can still take a while to improve.

If your child develops the following, take your child to the doctor:

  • An abrupt cough
  • A cough associated with fever
  • A cough associated rapid breathing
  • A cough becomes more frequent or sever after two weeks

As a parent, when your child becomes ill, you want to do whatever you can to make your child feel better quicker.

However, the Food and Drug Administrations does not recommend cough and cold medications that include nasal decongestants, antihistamines and expectorants in the use of children under the age of 6. The usefulness of over-the-counter of cough and cold medications hasn’t been proven effective in children of all ages; and is therefore not recommended.

Many of these products can be harmful for young children. So what can you do to ease a cough?

  • Vapor Rub treatments applied to neck and chest
  • Saline nasal drops
  • Honey before bed can reduce the frequency of coughs and improve sleep (Honey should not be given to children under the age of 1. For children 2-5 years old, ½ teaspoon of honey. For children 6-11 years old, 1 teaspoon of honey. For children 12-18, two teaspoons of honey may be given.)
  • A cool mist humidifier
  • Plenty of rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids

If you are concerned that your child’s illness is not getting better or seems to be getting worse after two weeks or you have several questions, please don’t hesitate to see your family physician.

When your child feels better, you will feel better, too!



Doctor VicarioAbout the author: Dr. Vicario is Board Certified in Family Medicine. Her special interests are: Preventive Care, Women's & Children's Health, School & Sports Physicals. Dr. Vicario sees patients in our Elyria office.