Colds are caused by viruses. Antibiotics won't help your child's cold.

The cold viruses spread easily through the air. Try to keep your child away from people with colds and teach your toddler how to wash their hands and to cover their cough.

Cold symptoms, which usually last about 14 days, may include:

  • runny nose with discharge, which can be yellow or green or thin and clear
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • cough
  • congestion
  • fever (at the beginning of the cold)
  • sore throat
  • headaches
  • body aches

What to do for your child's cold

Until the virus runs it course, there are some things you can do to help your child feel better.

  • Talk with your health care provider before you give any over-the-counter cold medicine to your child if they are younger than 6 years old.
  • Drink extra liquids.
  • Try to get your child to rest as much as possible.
  • Drink 2 teaspoons of honey to help the cough.
    • Never give honey to a child younger than 1 year old. This could cause infant food poisoning.
  • Use a salt water (saline) nose spray. 
    • You can buy this over-the-counter. 
    • To make your own:
      • Mix one-fourth teaspoon salt and one cup of water.
      • Spray or place a few drops of the mixture into your child's nose. It may help relieve congestion.
  • Treat a fever with medicine if your child is uncomfortable.

Nasal congestion in infants

Infants breathe in and out of their noses until about 4 months of age. You may need to suction your infant's nose with a bulb syringe before they eat. You may also need to use saltwater drops to soften the mucus before you suction it out.

Bronchitis is an infection of the mucous lining of the bronchial (breathing) tubes in your child's lungs. It is usually caused by a virus and must run its course.

Related resources

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5, sixth edition, ped-ah-91554
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 11/16/2022