Colds and flu
Children catch over twice as many colds as adults every year. A cold is a viral infection of the nose, throat, and sinuses, and a raised temperature may also develop. Common symptoms include a blocked or runny nose (congestion), sneezing and coughing, hoarse voice, and general feelings of unwellness.
Flu, or influenza, is caused by different viruses to those which cause colds. Flus are highly contagious, and are more common in late autumn and early winter. Common symptoms are high temperature (up to 104F/40C), aches, pains, chills, headaches, sore throat, coughing, and general feelings of unwellness. In children, flu often carries more extreme symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea. In babies, indicators of influenza are less pronounced, such as low appetite and poor circulation. Symptoms usually pass of their own accord within a week.
Should we see a doctor?
A cold is usually not serious and should clear up on its own in a few days. You should see a doctor in the case of the following:
- a high fever in a baby younger than three months;
- if symptoms go on for longer than ten days and includes signs of bacterial infection, such as green or brown mucus which may require antibiotics;
- breathing difficulties;
- severe earache;
- soreness in the throat for more than a few days;
- other symptoms such as swellings, headaches, or any serious pain.
Antibiotics should only be prescribed in the case of bacterial infection. Colds are caused by viruses and as such do not respond to antibiotic treatment. Overuse of antibiotics can create resistant infections.
The best home remedies include plenty of rest, fluids, and paracetamol to reduce fever (doses should be strictly monitored with children and are much lower than those recommended for adults).