How to Know When a Cold Is More Than Just a Cold


little girl suffering from a severe cold

The common cold is precisely that: very common. But sometimes, cold symptoms are a sign that something else is going on a child’s body as well. This is why it’s important to recognize the various secondary symptoms that can occur and how to know if these are actually tied to the cause of the cold. For example, a cold with a fever could mean a sinus infection, a cold with ear pain could be an ear infection, and a cold with wheezing could be a sign of asthma.

This article will discuss how to know when a child’s cold is more than just a cold and when to see a doctor for a cold that won’t seem to go away on its own.

Warning Signs of a Severe Cold Plus Something Else

Sure signs that a cold is more than just a cold is one that lasts a very long time, that keeps coming back, or that is accompanied by a fever. A common cold progression should not last for more than 10 days. It is also possible that a child’s sickness started out as a severe cold and then ran down the immune system enough to make the child more susceptible to another condition.

Other warning signs to look out for include chest pains and shortness of breath, which could be signs of pneumonia. Headaches, sinus pain, bluish-colored skin, achiness, discolored mucous, itchy or watery eyes, difficulty swallowing, ear drainage, and increased irritability should also be noted in children and serve as a sign to seek medical attention.

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Toddler Ear Infection

Toddler ear infection is very common in kids and often mistaken for a common cold. This pain and congestion is typically localized in just one ear. Earaches and ear drainage are not typical symptoms of colds, so there is likely something else going on with a child if these symptoms exist.

Sinus Infection in Kids

A sinus infection in kids may also be confused with a simple cold. This condition typically causes headaches and pressure that hurts around the nose and eyes. Kids will usually feel the pain worse when they lean forward because this puts excess pressure on the congested sinus passages.

When to See a Doctor for a Cold

Many colds can be treated safely and effectively at home with over-the-counter medications, rest, and plenty of fluids. For example, PediaCare offers symptom-specific remedies for kids that tackle multiple symptom colds, cough with a runny nose, and cough with congestion.

However, colds that persist for an unusually long time or that present the aforementioned symptoms may require the expertise of a medical professional. It is a smart idea to call a doctor if a child has high fevers over 102 degrees Fahrenheit that are accompanied by body aches. Severe vomiting, sinus pain, and swollen glands in the jaw and neck are also signs that it’s time to call a doctor. Other symptoms, such as trouble breathing and chest pain, are even more severe and may warrant calling 911 for immediate medical help.

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