Runny Noses In Children

Your child has a runny nose (with or without green-yellow thick mucus). Cold symptoms may last up to 3 weeks. Coughing, associated with sniffling or a post-nasal drip, should improve by 14 days. Here are some facts about colds and runny noses.

What Causes A Runny Nose During A Cold?

When germs (cold viruses) that cause colds first infect the nose and sinuses, the nose makes clear mucus. This helps wash the germs from the nose and sinuses. After two or three days, the body's immune cells fight back, changing the mucus to a white or yellow color. As the bacteria that live in the nose grow back, they may also be found in the mucus, which changes the mucus to a greenish color. This color change in the mucus is normal and does not mean your child needs an antibiotic.

When Are Antibiotics Needed?

Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial complications of a runny nose. These include ear infections, sinusitis, Strep throat, and pneumonia. Persistent coughing lasting longer than 14 days may be a symptom of pneumonia or a sinus infection. Pneumonia and sinus infections require treatment with antibiotics.

Why Not Try Antibiotics Nowl?

Taking antibiotics when they are not needed can be harmful. Each time a child takes antibiotics, they are more likely to carry resistant germs in their noses and throats. These resistant germs cannot be killed by common antibiotics. Your child may need more costly antibiotics, or antibiotics given by needle, or may even need to be in the hospital to get antibiotics. Since a runny nose always gets better without specific treatment, it is better to wait and take antibiotics only when they are necessary.

What Should I Do?

The best treatment is to wait and watch your child. Nasal discharge, cough, and symptoms like fever, headache, and muscle aches may be bothersome, but antibiotics will not make them go away any faster. If your child is comfortable and sleeping well, no treatment with medicines is necessary.

Should Any Medicines Be Used For My Child's Runny Nose?

  • Cool air vaporizer or humidifier and keeping the room temperature 68 to 70 degrees will help your child sleep more comfortably.
  • Saline (salt water) drops (pump dispenser bottle is easier) can be used to loosen dry mucus in the nose.
  • Nasal aspirators (clear plastic tip) may help you suction loose mucus you can see in the nose.
  • Cough & cold medicines do not cure a cold or cough. Over the counter cough & cold medicines are as effective as prescription cough & cold medicines for providing relief of the cold symptoms. Do not use in infants less than 5 months, as the side effects of these medicines can make your baby uncomfortable.
  • OTC medicines should only be used to provide relief. These medicines work by drying up the nasal congestion and lessening the post-nasal drip (PND). PND causes the coughing.
  • Do not use Tylenol, Motrin or Advil Cold medicine combinations. Remember, Tylenol, Motrin & Advil are used to treat fever and pain and should be used until the fever or pain is better. The dose is based on your child's weight. Ask for our fever handout. The dose of the cold medicines can be adjusted to balance relief of symptoms with the possible side effects of drowsiness or problems falling asleep. Ask for our list of OTC cold & cough medicines.

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