Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do if my toddler has a cough or cold?
Most children get several mild colds and coughs every year. These usually improve within a week and go away within 14 days. A toddler under the age of three who has a cold or cough needs to be watched closely. A toddler can become more ill than older children.
When your toddler has a cough or cold, you might notice a runny nose, cough (which may or may not produce mucus), fever, or sore throat. Your toddler may also be irritable.
- Let your toddler rest.
- Keep the room temperature comfortable but not too hot.
- Give your toddler plenty of fluids (breast milk, water, other fluids).
- Use a cool air humidifier.
- Use saline drops in your toddler’s nostrils to help clear a stuffy nose.
- Raise the head of your toddler’s bed by 2.5–5 cm (1–2 in.) by placing blocks under the legs of the bed.
- Give extra attention.
- Practise good hand washing.
If you are concerned about your toddler’s cough or cold, call HealthLink BC at 8‑1‑1, or contact your public health office or family doctor.
Cold and Fever Medications
- Do not use decongestant or antihistamine medications unless recommended by your doctor.
- Use acetaminophen to reduce pain or fever.
Always check the label carefully so that you give the right amount. Call HealthLink BC at 8‑1‑1 for guidelines if needed.
Does my toddler need antibiotics for a cold?
No, antibiotics cannot cure colds. Colds are caused by viruses, which cannot be treated with antibiotics. There is a risk of side effects from antibiotics, including allergic reaction. More common side effects include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, and yeast infections.
Antibiotics also kill good bacteria. The unnecessary use of antibiotics adds to the growth of dangerous superbugs that antibiotics can’t treat.
Simply touching your toddler’s forehead or neck may or may not tell you if your toddler has a fever. The best way to take your toddler’s temperature is in the armpit with an easy‑to‑read thermometer (such as a digital thermometer). Place it high up in the centre of the armpit. Make sure it is touching bare skin on all sides. Hold your toddler’s arm close to his or her body, and wait at least three minutes. Comfort and distract your toddler while taking his or her temperature.
If the reading is high or you are not sure if it is accurate, wait a few minutes and take the temperature a second time. Other ways of taking your toddler’s temperature are not recommended:
- Mercury (glass) thermometers are not recommended. If the thermometer breaks, your toddler might be exposed to the mercury, which is poisonous.
- Taking a rectal temperature is not recommended for toddlers because it can cause injury.
- Forehead strips or pacifier thermometers are not accurate.
- Do not use a thermometer in the mouth of a child under five years. Young children cannot keep the thermometer under their tongue long enough. Never use a glass thermometer in a toddler’s mouth.
A fever itself is usually not harmful. However, it can cause discomfort and dehydration. A fever in a healthy toddler is usually not dangerous. This is especially true if the toddler does not have other symptoms and the fever goes away in three to four days. It is important to look for other symptoms of sickness besides fever. The degree of fever may or may not tell how serious your toddler’s illness is.
If you are concerned about a fever, call HealthLink BC at 8‑1‑1 or contact your public health office or family doctor.