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What to do when my child catches a cold during this pandemic?

What is the “Common Cold”?

The ‘common cold’, as it is widely known, is a mild infection of the upper respiratory tract. It is caused by viruses, with the group called rhinoviruses being behind 30 to 50 per cent of colds. Other viruses that can cause colds include coronaviruses, influenza and parainfluenza viruses.

Bacterial infections may occur as a complication of the common cold, but these are rare.

Despite having many similar symptoms, the common cold is different from influenza (or the flu) in that flu sufferers’ symptoms are more severe.

Main symptoms may include the following:

  • Runny nose, or blocked nose

  • Sore throat

  • Cough

  • Fever

  • Body aches

How is the Common Cold treated?

For parents who choose to self-medicate their sick child, some common medications available over the counter from retail pharmacies would include:

  • Antihistamines for runny nose e.g. Zyrtec syrup

  • Decongestants for blocked nose e.g. iliadin nose drops

  • Anti-tussives for cough e.g. robitussin syrup

  • Anti-pyretics for fever and bodyaches e.g. paracetamol syrup

Do note the dosages for children can be measured based on age or weight, and usually those are indicated in ranges on the relevant syrup boxes. More importantly, the use of antibiotics is NOT the cure for the common cold.

Is my child down with something more than the Common Cold?

Bring your child to see a doctor if the following situations arise:

● Prolonged fever for more than 5 days or if the fever temperature goes above 40 degrees

● Prolonged cough for more than a week

● Breathlessness

● Wheezing or high pitched sounds

● Poor appetite and poor activity levels

How is Common Cold treated differently in pandemic time?

When bringing your child to see a doctor, the first and foremost considerations are to rule out the more severe conditions above which could arise from pneumonia, asthma, dengue or even bacterial infections.

Should the condition be diagnosed to be the Common Cold, similar medications as noted above will be prescribed, with the appropriate dosing and lifestyle advice will be given.

In addition to the above, in view of the concurrent covid pandemic, there are certain MOH mandatory rulings in place to safeguard the population. Children less than 13 years old are not required to go for covid swabs UNLESS they experience flu-like symptoms for 4 days or more.

So you can imagine, bringing along a crying sniffling cranky toddler to go and do a swab is really nothing short of a nightmare. Also, if the child does not undergo the covid swab test, there will be a mandatory 5-day MC as well. But unfortunately, that’s the difference in current pandemic times so the key message to take home is:

If your child is unwell, do not place him/her in school, see a doctor earlier (less than 4 days of symptoms) and get treatment quickly to shorten the illness duration.

And finally, prevention is better than cure.

5 Ways to Prevent the Common Cold in children

1) Frequent hand washing

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.

  • Wash them for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Viruses that cause colds can live on your hands, and regular hand washing can help protect you from getting sick.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Viruses that cause colds can enter your body this way and make you sick.

  • Stay away from people who are sick. Sick people can spread viruses that cause the common cold through close contact with others.

2) Stay home when unwell

  • Avoid close contact with others, such as hugging, kissing, or shaking hands.

  • Move away from people before coughing or sneezing.

  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue then throw it away, or cough and sneeze into your upper shirt sleeve, completely covering your mouth and nose.

  • Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose

3) Frequent disinfection

  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and objects such as toys and doorknobs.

4) Consider multivitamins

  • Multivitamins aren't really necessary for most healthy children who are growing normally. Food still remains the best source of nutrients with regular meals and snacks.

  • Consider it as an adjunct to your child's regular diet.

  • It becomes more essential if the child has some delay in physical and development growth, has certain chronic diseases or food allergies.

  • Remember to check the dosing indicated for the relevant age groups.

5) Vaccinations

  • As part of routine childhood immunisation, certain vaccinations are already mandatory for babies and toddlers, such as diptheria (swollen glands), pertussis (whooping cough), haemophilus influenza (pneumonia), pneumococcal (pneumonia), measles (rashes and mouth spots), mumps (swollen salivary glands), rubella (rashes and joint pain).

  • As you can see, there are many other causes of cough, runny nose, sore throat and fever other than just the Common Cold, but those above are primarily in place to ensure necessary baseline immunity against those specific conditions.

  • Optional vaccines to consider for further protection: Chickenpox Vaccine and Influenza Vaccine.

What is Influenza? Is it the same as the Common Cold?

Influenza, commonly known as the "flu", is a contagious disease that can affect anyone including healthy people. It attacks the respiratory tract in humans (nose, throat, and lungs), causing inflammation of the mucous membranes. It is a serious condition because the infection, at times, can lead to complications and even death.

Influenza is usually a more severe condition than the common cold. The disease can be deadly to some people who develop life-threatening complications like pneumonia. Those who are at risk of serious flu complications like older people, young children and people with certain chronic conditions should get vaccinated.

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year.

Flu facts:

1) Singapore has 2 big flu seasons, in June and December.

  • Medical research studies and monitoring by health authorities show that influenza and acute respiratory illness have 2 peaks a year – in June and in December. This is different from temperate climates like North America, which has its main influenza season November – March.

2) Influenza vaccine is 70-90% effective when there is a good match between vaccine and the virus circulating in the community.

  • Although the vaccine may be less effective in the elderly and patients with lower immunity, we can protect them by vaccinating the children, adults and caregivers around them.

What about Influenza Vaccination in children?

Children 6 months through 8 years of age require two doses of influenza vaccine. The second dose should be given at least 28 days after the first dose. The first dose “primes” the immune system; the second dose provides immune protection. Children who only get one dose but need two doses can have reduced or no protection from a single dose of flu vaccine.

If your child needs the two doses, begin the process early. This will ensure that your child is protected before influenza starts circulating in your community. Be sure to get your child a second dose if he or she needs one. It usually takes about two weeks after the second dose for protection to begin.

Take Home Messages

  1. If your child is unwell, do not place him/her in school, see a doctor earlier (less than 4 days of symptoms) and get treatment quickly to shorten the illness duration.

  2. Frequent hand washing and disinfection can help to prevent the Common Cold in children.

  3. The best way to prevent Influenza (or "the flu") is by getting a flu vaccination each year.

  4. Children 6 months through 8 years of age require two doses of influenza vaccine.

  5. Begin the vaccination process early to ensure your child is protected before peak flu season arrives.

If you have any specific questions related to Children's Health, do drop by Paddington Medical Clinic to visit our Family Physician, Dr Zhang Huipei (Mdm) for a consultation. Remember to protect your child with regular hand hygiene and relevant vaccinations where appropriate.




Mayo clinic


Dr Zhang Huipei (Mdm)

MBBS (Singapore), GDFM (Singapore)

Family Physician

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