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When helping your child through a cold, avoid the temptation of antibiotics. They work against bacteria, not the viruses that cause colds. The exception occurs when your child is also dealing with sinusitis, pneumonia or an ear infection, and then only by your pediatrician's direction. Also, skip the zinc, vitamin C and echinacea. They don't work for children and even worse, echinacea can cause a rash and zinc can give kids diarrhea. And remember, leave the aspirin for adults.
Most of the time your child's cold will pass within a few days. In rare cases, she'll need treatment that you can't give at home. Here are some signs that it is time to call a doctor:
- Your baby is 3 months or younger.
- She has other conditions like asthma or diabetes.
- She's not eating or drinking anything or vomiting so often that she's not keeping anything down.
- She's having difficulty breathing.
- Her fever is higher than 101oF (38.4oC) and lasts longer than 3 days, or the fever didn't start until after a few days of being sick.
- Her eyes are red or have a yellow discharge.
- She has a high fever with yellowish nasal discharge or facial pain, which could mean a sinus infection.
- She has ear pain or she's fussy and pulling at her ear—all signs of an ear infection.
- Symptoms don't go away in a week or get worse.
Research shows young kids typically get 6 to 10 colds or flu per year. While you don't have the options you used to in the drugstore, you can still help her through her sickness. All it takes is a little extra TLC and she'll be back to normal in days.
Reviewed by Timothy Yarboro, M.D.