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Has your little one been coughing and sniffing for what seems like forever, leaving you to wonder how long does a cold last in toddlers? Well, for the good news, you are not alone in this! Most healthy children catch a cold or other viral infections at least 8 to 10 times for the first 2 years of their lives. The symptoms of cold in toddlers may last up to 10 days or longer.
If your child attends daycare, they might tend to get sick more often as they come more in contact with other kids. Little ones who go to daycare may get as many as 6 to 8 colds a year.
But here’s the good news: mild fevers and colds in toddlers go away on their own. Getting sick builds up their immune system which means they can fend off the next bug that comes their way.
There is no cure for the common cold but do check in with your baby’s pediatrician for fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or ear pain. The normal threshold temperature is a degree between 101.5 degrees F to 102 degrees F so if the temperature is higher than 100.4 degrees F, get checked for COVID-19. Also, if your little one is exhibiting severe symptoms of a cold or if you get worried for other reasons as well, consult a doctor.
What Causes a Cold in Toddlers?
Cold in toddlers is a viral infection in the upper respiratory tract that can be caused by more than 200 varieties of contagious viruses. The most common virus that causes cold in toddlers is rhinoviruses. The cold-causing virus in toddlers usually lives in the air and on different surfaces. It means if someone with a cold, sneezes, coughs, or breathes on your child, they are very likely to pick it up. Even if they touch things they touched, they will catch the virus and come down with the symptoms.
In addition to these viruses, which are obvious reasons, some factors lower the resistance of your child to infection and lead to colds in them. Here are some of those other factors:
- Season: Colds in toddlers occur frequently during the winters when children are highly exposed to more germs as they are cooped up inside for a longer time.
- Dry air: The air during winters holds less moisture which dries out the nasal passages. A dry nasal passage makes toddlers stand at a higher rate of contracting viruses and colds.
- Smoking at home: If your little one is living with a smoker, they will catch a cold more often as the chemicals present in secondhand smoke damages the lining of their under-developing lungs. If you as a parent smokes then your child will be more prone to contracting colds than non-smokers.
Symptoms of Common Cold in Toddlers
The most common symptoms of cold in toddlers are runny nose, throat tickle, and sneezing ending in a lingering cough that flares up at night. Fortunately, symptoms of cold in toddlers are not very severe. Here’s the rundown of the most common symptoms:
- Slightly swollen glands
- Crankiness and fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Mild fever (101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Scratchy or sore throat (which might be difficult to spot in babies)
- Watery eyes
- Stuffiness or congestion
- Dry cough
- Runny nose (the discharge from the nose will be watery at first then the mucus gets thicker, yellowish or greenish, and opaque)
How Long Do Colds Last in Toddlers?
A cold in toddlers last between 7 to 10 days but may continue for up to 2 weeks. Cough is one of the last symptoms of cold and it will hang on for a long time, sometimes it may last for a month. Remember that the common cold is contagious, passing from person to person via airborne particles or through touch, so it may spread for 2 weeks after your child has fallen ill.
Flu versus Cold: How Do I Know if My Toddler Has Flu or a Cold?
The seasonal flu or the common cold may seem similar as they are both respiratory issues and even share most of the symptoms. The biggest difference between the flu and a cold is the speed at which their symptoms appear and the extent of their severity.
The symptoms of cold are usually mild and come gradually. It includes a low-grade fever whereas the flu is accompanied by a sudden hike in temperature and abrupt symptoms. Generally, the flu affects kids harder than the common cold leaving them more uncomfortable and feeling sicker.
What Can I Give My Toddler For a Cold?
While there is no cure for the common cold, you can comfort your little one by applying ointment around their nose to prevent chapping, popsicles, Pedialyte, water, other fluids, and a cold-mist humidifier to ease nasal congestion.
Warm water with some lemon and honey can offer hydration to your child if they are over a year old. If they are under the age of one then agave syrup will do the job. Hydrating is necessary to soothe the sore throat and ease the swelling of the respiratory tract.
Remember that antibiotics do not cause any change in the common cold as they treat bacterial infections. The overuse of such antibiotics will lead to the killing of the good bacteria in your baby’s system. Fevers also do not require any medication in most cases as they are just signs of your body fighting an infection. You can, however, cool your little one down with a cold compress in their forehead or by dressing them up in light fabrics.
If you are too bothered about how long does a cold last in toddlers, you could consult your doctor about ibuprofen or acetaminophen to lower their temperature as their right dose is safe for toddlers. Here are some age-specific details on how to treat colds in toddlers:
- For One-Year-Old
One-year-old toddlers do not know how to blow their noses so you can put nasal saline drops into their noses. It will heal clogged mucus and afterward, you can use NoseFrida or a suction bulb to gently extract the excess mucus. Raise the head of your baby’s crib with some extra pillows underneath its mattress and it will help in the decongestion of their nasal passage. However, this is safe only for babies aged 1 or above otherwise it will pose a reason for SIDS.
- For Two-Year-Old
Keep some tissues handy and teach your kid how to blow their nose. Nasal saline drops help in loosening crusty mucus that is clogging their nostrils. If your little one is sleeping in a big-kid bed, then offer them extra pillows so that their heads are raised while they are sleeping. Otherwise, you could prop the mattress of the crib up by putting extra pillows underneath the mattress.
- For Three-Year-Old and Above
Over-the-counter medications for cold and cough are strictly not for toddlers under the age of four. These drugs are practically ineffective in them and will lead to serious side effects. You must always consult your little one’s pediatrician before you give them medications for cold and cough if they are under the age of six. If your doctor gives the green signal then make sure you use a dosing cup or syringe available with the medicine itself to avoid potential dosing errors.
When Should I Call a Doctor?
Call a doctor asap if your child’s temperature is more than 100.4 degrees F as they will need to do a COVID-19 test. If your child is in daycare and comes down with a fever, it especially warrants a COVID-19 test. Check if the temperature is between 101.5 degrees F or 102 degrees F for kids between the ages of 1 and 3. Also, if they pull their ears a lot or exhibit symptoms that last more than 10 days, you need to consult a doctor.
If your toddler seems to have continuous colds with a chronically runny nose, allergies must be the culprit. This may also be accompanied by dark under-eye circles. So call your kid’s pediatrician for a cold if you notice any of these symptoms:
- Extra crankiness or lethargy
- Loss of appetite
- Blue fingernails or lips
- Yellowish-green, foul-smelling nasal discharge or discharge due to coughing
- Rapid breathing or wheezing more than the usual
- Swollen neck glands or discomfort in the chest
- Worsening cough or continuous cough during the daytime even after the ceasing of all their symptoms
- Pus on tonsils especially in children aged three or older as it indicates strep
How to Prevent Colds in Toddlers?
It’s natural to think how long does a cold last in toddlers and to scourge for ways to prevent or treat it. The best way to prevent your kid from catching a common cold is by washing their hands regularly especially after using the bathroom and before eating. Teach your child the basics of washing hands and you could also add in a pinch of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Stay away from anyone who’s caught a cold and avoid sharing towels, utensils, and cups.
But if your little one caught a cold, it is not easy to fight it but at the same time some TLC from you will ease up their symptoms over time and they will go back to their jolly self.
The Bottom Line: How Long Does a Cold Last in Toddlers?
Cold in toddlers will last about 3 days to 2 weeks, with the last few days prone to lingering symptoms only. Cold in toddlers has no cure but you could opt for ibuprofen or acetaminophen from your child’s pediatrician. You could even opt for home remedies for cold in toddlers like breathing vapor or applying ointments and sucking on popsicles. DO NOT give your kid over-the-counter medications if they are under 6 years of age. Hope our page satisfied your curiosity on how long a cold lasts in toddlers.