The ‘common cold’ with the stuffy, runny nose is something we have all experienced. It is due to a viral infection and therefore antibiotics will not help in its cure. Catching a cold does not give protection (immunity) against later attacks but, as a child grows older, its resistance to them gradually increases.
The symptoms consists of a discharge of mucus from the nose, catarrh, which is usually clear at the beginning and often becomes rather yellow after a few days. There may be a slight temperature and the child may feel generally unwell. The condition normally clears up in about a week.
There is no magic cure for the common cold but simple household remedies can relieve the discomfort. A baby should be laid on its side without a pillow to avoid the mucus running down the back of its throat. An older child may be more comfortable if propped up as this may make breathing slightly easier. A vapour rub (‘Vick’ or camphorated oil) applied to the chest at night may act as a decongestant, helping to clear the catarrh in the nose. Similarly, steam inhalations with a eucalyptus preparation ("Karvol" capsules or menthol crystals) may reduce nasal catarrh.
Decongestant nasal drops have little value as they tend to be effective for only very short periods of time, and can also stimulate more mucus production by irritating the lining of the nose. One situation in which they may be helpful is in the case of young babies when the presence of catarrh can make feeding very difficult. In such cases, clear the nose with cotton buds just prior to feeding and put two drops of a suitable preparation (such as Ephedrine nasal drops) into each nostril with the child lying with its head extended backwards.