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Urgent Care For Kids: Navigating The Long Cold Season

Kids are naturally more susceptible to colds and flu than adults because their immune systems are less developed. That, and they spend much more time with other children in school and daycare; places that can quickly become germ factories in the harsh winters.

So what’s a parent to do? Getting educated about what causes a cold, where it can lurk in kids’ daycare and school routines, and what to do if the mini-me comes home with the sniffles anyway can help your family be ready for what could be a long cold season.

Weather Causes the Common Cold... Just Not How You Think

While us adults are out braving the cold, icy commutes and the terror of hearing coughing and sneezing all over the office, our kids may be more excited about getting out into the snow to go sledding down the local hill or down their street. Of course, we all remember our parents’ warnings to “put on a coat or you’ll catch your death of cold!” and many of us still say the same to our own kids.

Science has shown that the cold-causing rhinovirus doesn’t survive cold temperatures very well, though, so how much does your child’s environment matter?

The short answer is that while the virus thrives in a warmer atmosphere like your child’s classroom or your cozy living room, your child can catch a cold more easily when he or she is cold. The ideal temperature for rhinovirus replication is between 91 and 95 degrees, and of course, your living room is not that warm, but it’s certainly closer to 91 degrees than it is outside.

So when your child is outside pelting his friends with snowballs and has shed his jacket or mittens, he’s at much higher risk of catching a cold. Even though he’s more likely to encounter the virus itself on the countertops of your warm kitchen during his post-play hot chocolate. 

The Germ Factory: What’s the Real Infection Threat at School and Daycare?

If you’re talking about schools and sickness with other parents, you’ll probably to hear about the fifth case of human West Nile Virus this month or the recent discovery of the Legionella bacteria at in the high schools.  Of course, you should be aware of serious disease outbreaks in your kids’ school districts, but the truth is your child is much more likely to come home from school with the common cold than anything else (besides homework).

Contrary to popular belief, colds are not airborne. It is best spread through the nasal and oral secretions from coughs or sneezes can be all over the surfaces of common areas at school, such as art tables or cafeteria benches. If your child touches something that a sick kid sneezed or coughed on, including their own hands, then your child could catch a cold. Again, this makes schools and daycares prime breeding grounds for colds. Let’s be honest though, where many children learn and play in close quarters, they don’t always practice the best hygiene – wiping their nose one second and reaching for a crayon or the safety scissors the next.

Teaching your kids proper hygiene, reinforcing proper nutrition choices at home to supplement the excellent nutritional programs in our nation's schools, and making sure they get enough sleep can help boost their immune systems to an extent. While there’s no shot to ward off the rhinovirus that causes the common cold, getting your appropriately-aged children a flu shot means you at least won’t have to worry about that virus weakening your kids’ immune system. Remember though, some are safe for children six months and older, while other types are recommended for three years and up.

My Kid Got a Cold Anyway, What Now?

You know what they say about the best-laid plans and all that...chances are that despite your best efforts, your kids are going to get a few colds this cold season. Children average about six colds a year, but understanding cold symptoms and how to treat them can help make your kids’ colds less severe.

Generally, cold symptoms in children include:

  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Mild headache
  • Mild body aches
  • Sneezing
  • Mild fever
  • Mild fatigue

Pay close attention to your child’s cold symptoms for any sign of progressive worsening. A fever isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it can indicate that the body is fighting off the infection, but if a fever lasts longer than 2 or 3 days, seek medical attention.

If your child isn’t responding to home treatment or you don’t feel comfortable providing home treatment for your child’s level of illness, visit your nearest GoHealth Urgent Care center. This is especially important if you have concerns about the length of your child’s illness, rate of their fever, rate of vomiting or nausea, a headache persists, or if your child can’t stay hydrated. The medical professionals at GoHealth Urgent Care can address and treat these cold symptoms immediately, with no need to wait for your child’s pediatrician to have an opening and no need for a costly emergency room visit. Feel free to book an appointment at your nearest GoHealth Urgent Care using the location widget below!

Any of our centers can help you with treating your child’s cold symptoms or any questions you might have. We understand how many things you have to deal with as a parent, and our goal is to help you form a treatment plan and get your child back on the playground and in the classroom as soon as possible!


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