Your toddler’s colds

From cold symptoms to how to make your child feel better, we explain what to do when your toddler catches a cold

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Your toddler is most likely to experience an average of seven to 10 colds a year, due to their developing immune system.

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How does your toddler catch a cold?

A cold is the most common respiratory infection and toddlers are more likely to be affected because their immune system’s developing. If your toddler goes to nursery they have a higher chance of catching a cold because the infection is highly contagious.

What cold symptoms may your toddler have?

Your toddler may have:

  • A runny or blocked nose
  • Sore throat
  • High temperature
  • Headaches
  • Cough

What medicine can you give your toddler?

While baby/child paracetamol won’t directly treat your toddler’s cold it will help to soothe some of their other symptoms, such as headaches. Make sure you read the label really carefully, to see whether it’s safe for your child’s age.

Baby/child ibuprofen can reduce feverish symptoms and pain, but make sure you read the packets of any medication before giving it to a young child. If you’re ever unsure about medication, ask your doctor before giving it to your toddler.

Avoid cough or cold medicines bought over the counter, unless prescribed by your doctor.

Should you take your toddler to the doctor?

If your child has a common cold, it will usually improve in five days to two weeks.

However, your toddler needs to see the doctor if their cold symptoms persist for longer than two weeks or if your toddler’s high temperature doesn’t decrease after taking baby/child paracetamol.

Also see your doctor if your toddler is complaining of earache as they may have an ear infection, which needs to be checked by your doctor. Your doctor will be able to prescribe antibiotics if your child has an ear infection.

What else can you do to help your toddler feel better?

Keep your toddler warm and comfortable. Give them plenty of water or fruit juice, as dehydration will only make them feel worse.

It’s important to remember that your toddler may not be able to blow his or her own nose, so it’s up to you to clear the mucus. Use a soft cloth instead of tissues, which can make the nose sore when used often.

If your toddler’s blocked nose is affecting their sleep, prop an extra pillow or two under their head as this well help reduce nasal congestion. Make sure your toddler has plenty of rest, so bring their bedtime forward if needed.

Can you do anything to prevent your toddler from catching a cold?

A good hygiene routine is key to limiting coughs and colds, but essentially there’s no specific prevention.

Teach your toddler the importance of regularly washing their hands with warm water and soap and encourage all the members of your house to keep this up, too. Germs accumulate on the surface of your hands and spread to every surface you touch, so washing will reduce the spread of the cold infection.

Also make sure your toddler coughs or sneezes into a tissue, which then gets thrown into the bin, again to stop the infection from spreading.

It’s vital that your toddler always has a good night’s sleep, as when they sleep their body recharges its immune system. This will help them fight off the cold infections better in the future.

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In the winter months, your toddler should wear a warm coat when outside to keep their body temperature from reducing, which will make them more susceptible to catching a cold.

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