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A cold, or upper respiratory tract infection, is the most common cause of illness in children and adults. Most colds are caused by a virus.

A cold is a mild viral infection of the nose, throat, sinuses and upper airways. It can cause a blocked or runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat and a cough. A cold will usually resolve without medical treatment. Colds are more frequent during the winter months. This may be because people are more likely to stay indoors and be in close contact with each other.

More than 200 different viruses can cause the common cold, which is why it is not possible to vaccinate against the infection.

Children and Colds

Adults have between two to four colds a year, and children have three to eight. A child’s immune system is less well developed compared to an adult’s, so they are more vulnerable to infection. There is no need for bed rest if your child has a cold. Moderate activity is not harmful during a cold. Your child may not feel like eating but make sure they drink lots of fluids. Appetite will return as your child starts to feel better.

Cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under six years of age. Cough and cold medicines should only be given to children aged six to 11 years on the advice of a Doctor, Pharmacist or Nurse Practitioner. There are potential risks associated with these products for children. There are no proven benefits in using cough and cold medicines in children.


There is no cure for the common cold and in most cases you will be able to manage the symptoms of cold without the need for medication. Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to children. Decongestants and cough medicines will not help your child to recover more quickly and may cause side effects.

Follow these techniques for managing a cough or cold:

  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Get plenty of rest and resume normal activities when you feel well enough.
  • Eat healthily: a low-fat, high-fibre diet is recommended, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (five portions a day).
  • Vapour rubs can help to soothe the symptoms of a cold in babies and young children. Apply the rub to your child’s chest and back. Don’t apply it to their nostrils because this could cause pain and breathing difficulties. Eukey Bear rub is a great child friendly natural alternative to the traditional harsher cough and cold rubs.
  • Menthol lozenges may help to relieve the symptoms of a sore throat.
  • Nasal saline drops or sprays can help relieve the symptoms of nasal congestion in babies and young children. It may seem awful to spray up their noses with these treatments but it is safe and natural and will help relieve your baby or young child’s congestion so that they can breath better, especially through the night.
  • Gargling with salt water can sometimes help to relieve the symptoms of a sore throat and nasal congestion.
  • Child-formula paracetamol or ibuprofen may be used to help relieve pain and fever in children.

See your Doctor if symptoms do not resolve within two weeks or if a patient:

  • Refuses to drink fluids
  • Vomits frequently
  • Complains of intense headache
  • Is pale and sleepy
  • Has difficulty breathing
  • Has a high fever that does not respond to paracetamol
  • Shows no improvement in 48 hours
  • Shows any other signs that you are worried about


DISCLAIMER: This information is an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, nurse or naturopath before following any medical regimen to see whether it is safe and effective for you.