Colds, Coughs and Ear Infections in Children


It is normal for a preschool child to have at least 6 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 have never had them before. Gradually they build up immunity and get fewer colds.

Antibiotics do not help with colds as they are a viral illness. Most colds get better in 5 to 7 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. Ask your pharmacist, doctor or early childhood nurse about them.
  • If your child has a fever, pain or discomfort, Paracetamol or Ibuprofen can help. There are child and infant products that will state on the packet how much you should give children of different ages.
  • Encourage the whole family to wash their hands regularly to stop the cold spreading.
  • Avoid nasal decongestants. They do not help with a cold and can cause side effects like fast heart rate and insomnia.


Child’s cough is a common symptom which is commonly caused by a cold. Usually a cough gets better on its own and is not serious. If your child is feeding, drinking, eating and breathing normally and there is no wheezing, a cough is not usually anything to worry about.

Causes of a more serious cough in children can include:

  • croup
  • whooping cough
  • asthma
  • pneumonia
  • swallowing a foreign object

If your child has a bad cough that would not go away, see your doctor. If your child seems to be having trouble breathing, seek medical attention urgently or call an ambulance, even if it is the middle of the night.

Sore throats

The most common cause of a sore throat is a viral illness, such as a cold or the flu. Your child’s throat may be dry and sore for a day or two before a cold starts. Infant or child dosage Paracetamol or Ibuprofen can be given to reduce the pain.

Most sore throats clear up on their own after a few days. See the doctor if your child has trouble breathing or swallowing, is drooling more than usual, has a stiff or swollen neck or has a fever.

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 cannot always tell where pain is coming from and may just cry and seem uncomfortable.

If your child has an earache but is otherwise well, give them infant or child dose Paracetamol or Ibuprofen for 12-24 hours. Do not put any oil, eardrops or cotton buds into your child’s ear unless your doctor advises you to do so. Most ear infections are caused by viruses, which cannot be treated with antibiotics. They will just get better by themselves.