Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center

Common Cold

Home treatment of common cold

Most children get at least six colds a year.  Usually the fever lasts for less than three days and all nose and throat symptoms are gone by the end of a week.  A cough may last 2-3 weeks.

Saltwater nose drops:

  • Nose drops help to loosen the secretions in the nose, making it easier for the child to blow his nose.  Saltwater nose drops are effective.  You can make these by mixing ¼ teaspoon of salt into a cup of water.  These should be made fresh each day.  To give the nose drops, have the child lie on his/her back, on a bed with his/her head hanging over the side.  Instill 3 drops as necessary in each nostril.  After a minute, have the child blow his/her nose.
  • If the child is a baby who cannot blow his/her nose, after one minute gently suction the loosened mucus with soft rubber bulb syringe.  DO NOT put the tip in too far.  You can get a bulb syringe at any pharmacy.
  • Use the nose drops every four hours as needed, especially before feeding or bedtime, as this helps to clear the nose, making it easier for the infant to feed or sleep. 

Comfort Measures:

  • Vaseline applied under the nose will help prevent the skin from becoming raw and cracked.
  • Positioning – prop the child up in a reclining position or place in an infant seat to help facilitate breathing.
  • Liquids – Appetite may decrease while the child has a cold.  Do not push solid foods, but it is important to give your child plenty of liquids to drink.
  • Cool mist vaporizer – moisture added to the air helps loosen secretions making it easier for the child to blow his/her nose.  If you use a cool mist vaporizer, be sure to change the water daily and wash it with soap and water or bleach to help prevent the growth of molds.  Also, mist from a shower or kettle on a stove will help add moisture to the environment.

Call the physician if:

  • Your child has a fever that lasts for more than three days or for any fever in an infant under three months of age (fever greater than 101.5 degrees F or 38.5 degrees C)
  • The child complains of sore throat or earache
  • The child has difficulty breathing
  • The fever goes away for one or two days and then returns
  • Any other symptoms that cause concern