WHAT’S WITH THE COUGH?
WHAT ARE COUGHS AND COLDS? Common colds are caused by viruses and are often called URIS (upper respiratory infections) because they infect the nose, ears, and throat but not the lungs (which are part of the lower respiratory tract). According to paediatrician Dr Lara Smith, “The common cold is the most common upper respiratory infection that toddlers get – especially those who have recently started playschool. They are generally viral, but they can lead to secondary infections that are usually bacterial and may require antibiotics.”
Remember, though, that this doesn’t necessarily mean that your toddler’s runof-the-mill common cold is going to be complicated by a secondary infection, for example, bronchiolitis (where the lungs are involved), tonsillitis, sinusitis, or an ear infection.
“Often, it’s just a runny nose, a lowgrade temperature and a miserable toddler for a few days. Only if your child doesn’t cope with the cold may it develop into a full-blown infection,” Dr Smith says.
Give your toddler lots of fluids, try to get her to rest lots, give her paracetamol to bring down the fever and perhaps something to dry up her nose, but keep an eye on her. “A runny nose and cough could persist for up to a week, but if your child is unwell, not feeding well or has a high fever that persists for more than 48 to 72 hours, I would advise that she sees a doctor,” says Dr Smith. WHY IS MY TODDLER SICK ALL THE TIME? The average child can get up to eight colds per year in her first two years. After that, it should go down to four to six episodes per year. Of course, if your child starts playschool before she’s two, her risk will be much higher as exposure to new germs and the crowds in crèches (and big families) all make a toddler more susceptible to the common cold,” says Dr Smith.
She adds, however, that it’s not all doom and gloom and that your child isn’t going to be sick her whole school career, unless she has an immune deficiency.
“Those first few months are generally the roughest because she wouldn’t have been exposed to a huge amount of germs before that,” she explains, adding that the reason why your toddler catches so many colds in her early years, and in particular when she starts playschool, is because of her immature immune system. Once this develops, it genuinely improves, and if your toddler was breastfed as a baby she “should have a relatively good immune system,” Dr Smith says.
Also, remember that a child who suffers from allergies such as rhinitis or asthma will naturally be more susceptible to catching the common cold. SO WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT? Apart from keeping your child at home in a vacuum, there’s nothing really that you can do to protect her from catching colds that can potentially lead to more serious illnesses.
“If you can, keep children under two out of big crèches,” advises Dr Smith. “As far as your two-year-old is concerned, you’re just going to have to bite the bullet to get through the tricky first few months and years at playschool.” One thing you can do to help is make sure that she’s eating properly – not always easy with a twoyear-old! Putting her on a supplement if she’s a fussy eater can sometimes help as toddlers tend to eat one item more regularly than any others, and don’t always have a balanced diet.
“There are also adult studies showing that zinc can potentially benefit one’s immune system. If your child is getting sick all the time, then this might be something to consider – although it hasn’t been proven. The same goes for giving your toddler probiotics,” says Dr Smith.
She stresses that smoking around your toddler is detrimental to her health and it makes common cold symptoms worse. The best thing you can do for your child is quit your habit if you have one. YB
EVEN IF YOUR child has never had a cough or a cold (lucky you!), when she starts playschool – generally at around about the age of two – she will most likely get sick often. Because unfortunately, along with all the pros of your little one starting school (socialisation and stimulation being two of these), come cons, and the upper respiratory infection is one of these.
Seasonal respiratory tract infections are kind of unavoidable if your child is exposed to others, but you can limit the damage, says Molly Barnes