It’s normal for a child to have eight or more colds a year. This is because there are hundreds of different cold viruses and young children have no immunity to any of them as they’ve never had them before. Gradually they build up immunity and get fewer colds.


Most colds get better in five to seven days. Here are some suggestions on how to ease the symptoms in your child:


  • Increase the amount of fluid your child normally drinks.
  • Saline nose drops can help loosen dried nasal secretions and relieve a stuffy nose. There are many of these to choose from such as Nasosal and Sterimar.
  • If your child has a fever, pain or discomfort, paracetamol or ibuprofen can help.  Encourage the whole family to wash their hands regularly to stop the cold spreading.
  • Nasal decongestants can make stuffiness worse. Never use them for more than two or three days and not in children under the age of 12.


Ear infections


Ear infections are common in babies and small children. They often follow a cold and sometimes cause a temperature. A child may pull or rub at an ear, but babies can’t always tell where pain is coming from and may just cry and seem uncomfortable.


If your child has earache but is otherwise well, give them paracetamol or ibuprofen for 12-24 hours. Don’t put any oil, eardrops or cotton buds into your child’s ear.  In general any pain in the ear indicates the possibility of an infection and you should see your GP who may give you a prescription for ear drops to reduce the inflammation and pain.  Most ear infections are caused by viruses, which can’t be treated with antibiotics. They will just get better by themselves.


After an ear infection your child may have a problem hearing for two to six weeks. If the problem lasts for any longer than this, ask your GP for advice.


Sore throats


Sore throats are often caused by viral illnesses such as colds or flu. Your child’s throat may be dry and sore for a day or two before a cold starts. Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be given to reduce the pain.


Most sore throats clear up after a few days. If your child has a sore throat for more than four days, has a high temperature and is generally unwell, or is unable to swallow fluids or saliva, see your GP.




Children often cough when they have a cold because of mucus trickling down the back of the throat. Children over the age of 6 can use a decongestant such as Sudafed to dry up this post nasal drip.  If your child is feeding, drinking, eating and breathing normally and there’s no wheezing, a cough isn’t usually anything to worry about.


If your child has bad cough’s that won’t go away see your GP. If your child also has a high temperature and is breathless, they may have a chest infection. If this is caused by bacteria rather than a virus your GP will prescribe antibiotics to clear up the infection. Antibiotics won’t soothe or stop the cough straightaway.


If a cough continues for a long time, especially if it’s worse at night or is brought on by your child running about, it could be a sign of asthma. Some children with asthma also have a wheeze or breathlessness. If your child has any of these symptoms take them to the GP.  Although it’s upsetting to hear your child cough, coughing helps clear away phlegm from the chest or mucus from the back of the throat. If your child is over the age of one, try a warm drink of lemon and honey.




Your child has a fever if


They are UNDER 3 MONTHS and have a temperature of 38C or above

They are BETWEEN 3-6 MONTHS and have a temperature of 39C or above

They are OVER 6 MONTHS and have a temperature of 39.5C or above


You shouldn’t assume they have a temperature just because they feel hot, this has been shown to be quite unreliable.  Using a thermometer is the only way to confirm they have a fever.  Mercury thermometers are no longer recommended for use with children.  Ear thermometers are a convenient way to take your child’s temperature as you can take it even when they are asleep.


High temperatures can be treated in children over 3 months by giving them paracetamol (Calpol) and Ibuprofen (Nurofen).  You can give both of these together by alternating them every 3 hours.  For example if you give Calpol you can give Nurofen 3 hours later, then give Calpol 3 hours after that and so on.