A cold, otherwise called an upper respiratory infection (URI) among toddlers is one of the most common illnesses, resulting in absences from school and more visits to doctors than any other illness.
A cold is caused by a number of viruses, estimated to be more than 200. The most common of these is the rhinovirus.Other viruses include coronavirus, parainfluenza, adenovirus, enterovirus and the respiratory syncytial viruses. The viruses cause a reaction in the child’s immune system which tries to fight them, resulting in an increase in mucus production leading to a runny nose, laboured breathing, sneezing and cough.
Colds are caused by the child coming into contact with someone who is affected by the virus, or by being in the proximity of another who sneezes or coughs. It can also be transmitted through the air by the virus aerially moving to the child or toddler’s nasal membranes. Sometimes it may result on account of direct contact with objects that have been touched by aninfected child who has a cold, such as toys in a day care centre or play school.
The symptoms of the cold virus are evident within three days of contact with the virus and last for about a week, sometimes two depending on the child’s resistive ability. During this period the child will have a stuffy nose, a scratchy and tickly throat, watery eyes, accompanied by bouts of sneezing. The toddler may also have a hacking cough, a sore throat, achy muscles, headaches and suffer from low grade fever. A cold is relatively harmless to a child and usually clears up by itself. Sometimes it may lead to a secondary infection like ear infection.
The symptoms of a cold are similar to another illness, known as flu or influenza, which is far more dangerous. Flu can lead to complications, such as pneumonia, which can be life-threatening in a toddler. A doctor should be speedily consulted if the cold does not disappear within 2 to 3 weeks.
Many people believe that taking large amounts of vitamin C will prevent the onset and result in a cold being less severe; but results are otherwise. Children who are given large quantities of this vitamin over long periods could result in the child developing diarrhea and distorting its urine and blood test results.
Contrary to popular belief, cold weather by itself does not cause a child to come down with a cold. Other factors could be more important, such as schools may be in session, bringing the child in contact with others who have cold ; the child may stay indoors bringing it in proximity of adults who may have colds themselves; the low humidity indoors result in dry nasal passages that make the toddler more susceptible to virus attacks.
In conclusion, the best ways to keep a child or toddler, from developing a cold or ‘upper respiratory infection’, are:
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