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How to Manage a Common Cold in Infants and Children

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

A sick child in bed
How to Manage a Common Cold in Infants and Children

Summer is coming to an end which means colder seasons are approaching. The months of fall and winter can be a parent’s worst nightmare because of cold/flu season. The stress of determining if/when you should take your child to their physician, understanding what symptoms your child may be experiencing, and deciding what medications to give them brings a lot of worry and tension into a parent’s life. Although knowing more information and recognizing differences about illnesses your child may be experiencing is beneficial, you should always depend on a provider for a diagnosis and should never self-diagnose yourself or your children. Always double check with a physician or pharmacist about dosing and if you should give a particular medication to your child.

What is a Cold?

The common cold is an upper respiratory infection that affects millions of people each year. Common colds happen when a virus, most often a rhinovirus, inflames the lining of the nose and throat. There are more than 200 different kinds of viruses that can cause you to catch a cold! This is one of the most common illnesses in children and they can typically get 6 to 8 colds a year. It can be spread airborne from coughs and sneezes, by contact, and even through contaminated objects (especially toys shared amongst children). Kids are more likely to catch a cold because they have weaker immune systems in comparison to adults. Children frequently touch their eyes, nose, and mouths without properly washing their hands which then contaminates toys, door handles, and more. When inhaling tainted air, the virus will stick to the nasal membrane starting the infection process. In the colder seasons of the year, common colds become more apparent because of more time spent inside which encourages close contact with others (daycare/school), hand-to-mouth contact, and because of humidity levels dropping which causes nasal passages drying out and creating a greater risk of infection.

Symptoms generally start 1 to 3 days after being in contact with the virus and can last anywhere between 1 to 2 weeks. A few examples of what these symptoms may look like are listed below (there are more symptoms related to common colds than what are on these lists, contact your child’s provider for more information and/or a diagnosis):

Frequent Symptoms in Infants:

  • Trouble sleeping/insomnia

  • Fussiness

  • Congestion or stuffy/runny nose

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Fever

Frequent Symptoms in Children

  • Congestion or stuffy/runny nose

  • Sore/scratchy/tickly irritation of the throat

  • Watery eyes

  • Sneezing

  • Mild hacking/cough

  • Headaches

  • Muscle/bone aches and pains

  • Low-grade fever

  • Fatigue

  • Watery discharge from the nose that thickens and turns yellow or green


Most children recover from a common cold on their own. Antibiotics will never be prescribed for colds because they don’t fight off viral infections. The best way to provide treatment for your child is by helping ease their symptoms until it passes and keeping them home until they are fever free for at least 24 hours. There are many over the counter (OTC) medications that can be given to your child for easing symptoms, but there are many other steps you should take as well to help ease their symptoms. Ensure your child is intaking plenty of fluids (water, electrolyte solutions, apple juice, warm soup, etc.) to prevent fluid loss/dehydration, have them get plenty of rest, use a cool-mist humidifier, and make sure that medication being used is appropriate. Always have the medication you give your infant or child approved by their provider or a licensed pharmacist and never give children any medication labeled for adults. There are various medications that if given incorrectly can be very detrimental to your child’s health and wellbeing, which is why you need to speak with a healthcare professional. For example, ibuprofen products cannot be given to children under 6 months old because of immature kidneys, children under 12 months old cannot intake any form of honey (even in processed or baked foods) due to the risk of botulism from spores of bacterium called clostridium botulinum (which are relatively heat-resistant) found in honey, children 4 years old and younger cannot have products containing decongestants or antihistamines because life-threatening effects can occur, and anyone under the age of 19 years old cannot take aspirin because of the risk of Reye’s Syndrome.

There are several active ingredients you can find in OTC medications that will help different symptoms your child may be experiencing like: guaifenesin- an expectorant that brings up mucus, dextromethorphan- a cough suppressant that will reduce their cough, chlorpheniramine/brompheniramine/diphenhydramine are all antihistamines that will help allergies or itchiness, and phenylephrine/pseudoephedrine- decongestants that provide short-term relief for nasal congestion. Always follow package directions for proper dosing based on age and weight, check with a provider or pharmacist to make sure medication is appropriate for the child, and always use proper measuring tools- do not use kitchen spoons to measure medication. For children 1 year old and older, you can mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey in warm lemon water to help with cough. For children 7 years old and older they may suck on non-medicated lozenges to relieve sore throat or gargle warm salt water (¼ to ½ teaspoon of table salt mixed in 8 oz or 1 cup of warm water). Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be given to children for fever and/or aches/pains if appropriate after doctor or pharmacist recommendation.

When Should You Call Their Physician?

Under 2 years old: after 1 day with a body temperature of 102° or greater by rectum or 103° or greater by underarm/forehead/ear temperature reading. 2 years and older: after 3 days with a body temperature of 102° or greater by rectum/mouth or 103° or greater by underarm/forehead/ear temperature reading. (Oral temperatures are not recommended for children 4 years old and younger.)

If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, call their physician: hoarse throat, inability to talk, high-pitched or barking sounding cough, difficulty breathing/wheezing or grunting while breathing, bluish or pale skin tone, ear pain/pulling of the ears/rolling head from side to side, difficulty swallowing, refusing liquids for more than 4 hours, no interest in playing/not acting like their usual self, and/or a fever that will not go down or subside from medication.

It is not very recurrent, but a few possible complications that can happen to your child while having a cold include pneumonia, throat infections, ear infections, and sinus infections.

How Can You Prevent Colds?

The spread of viral infections and germs can be put to a stop in numerous ways including teaching your children how to properly wash their hands, carry hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol in the ingredients, disinfecting surface areas and objects regularly (especially play areas and toys), and teaching your children how to cover when coughing or sneezing.

Going to a provider and learning it's more than just a common cold and your child (or yourself) is required to take prescription medications to treat the illness can be very stressful. This stress can be especially amplified if the prescriptions are sent in during vaccination season since the wait times are multiplied at retail pharmacies during that time. At Sonoran Drugs, we offer affordable pricing on antibiotics, antivirals, and more! We do same day delivery for medications such as these for $5.99 with a minimum total of $22 within a 13-mile radius of our location or if you’re located in Anthem, AZ. If you prefer to come into the pharmacy, we will have medications ready 15-20 minutes after the prescription is sent by the provider. We can even provide a curbside pickup for you as well if you’d like to remain in your vehicle! View our pricing below.

Pricing on medications
Our Pricing on Medications

Pricing on medications
Our Pricing on medications

For any questions, concerns, or inquiries- call us at (623) 583-2045, email us at, or visit our website at The hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm.

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