Unfortunately, winter brings an increase in the risk of coughs and colds, particularly in young children, who have a lower resistance to infection.
Coughs and colds often come together and are usually caused by viruses. They don’t usually need treatment with medications, and antibiotics won’t help. Most colds will get better on their own, within a week to 10 days, but a cough can sometimes persist for longer.
If your child has a cold or cough:
- make sure they get plenty of rest and sleep
- avoid sending them to childcare or school, to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to other children
- keep up their fluid intake – for young babies, give small frequent feeds
- provide nourishing foods
- don’t give over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, which have been found to have no proven benefit in young children and may be harmful
- babies can be given paracetamol or ibuprofen in liquid form and older children can have paracetamol tablets but be sure to follow the recommended dose and store them out of your child’s reach
If your child is unwell with a cough or cold, isn’t improving over a few days, or if you are concerned, take them to your GP. This is particularly important if your child:
- has a high fever that doesn’t come down with paracetamol
- is vomiting frequently
- won’t drink fluids
- has difficulty breathing
- is pale and sleepy
- has a cough that lasts more than three weeks
It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse before giving any medications to your child.
Occasionally, a cough may be caused by a bacterial infection in the throat or chest and may need antibiotics. Another common cause of persistent coughing in children is asthma.
For more information:
- Health Direct: Colds and flu in babies and children
- The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne: Kids info fact sheets – Cough
- Raising Children Network: Cough in babies, children and teens