35 Ways to Keep Your Kids Cold-Free

4 Reasons To Dial The Doctor

Red Flag

A fever of 102?F for more than 3 days, nasal secretions for more than 10 days, and facial pain.

What it Could Mean: A sinus infection, which occurs when the air pockets in the bones around the nose and cheeks become filled with bacteria- or virus-infected fluid.

What to Expect: If the doctor believes it's a bacterial infection, he'll prescribe an antibiotic.

Red Flag

Your child says his ear hurts (or is pulling his ear), is very fussy, or has a fever for 4 or more days.

What it Could Mean: An ear infection, a common complication in babies and toddlers, whose small eustachian tubes can swell and trap fluid.

What to Expect: If there's fluid or pus in his ear, he may have an infection that will respond to antibiotics. Since most ear infections go away on their own, your doctor may wait a few days to see if your child gets better.

Red Flag

Wheezing (a raspy sound when your child breathes), or a dry cough that gets worse with exertion.

What it Could Mean: Asthma. Although colds don't cause asthma, having a cold will trigger wheezing in about two thirds of asthmatic kids.

What to Expect: Your doctor can tell the difference between regular congestion and wheezing by listening to the lungs with a stethoscope. If your child is wheezing, your doctor may prescribe an inhalable asthma drug.

Red Flag

Painful blisters on the mouth.

What it Could Mean: Cold sores, which typically last 7 days. Although they may crop up along with a cold, they are actually caused by herpes simplex virus type 1.

What to Expect: They aren't serious--more than 90 percent of adults carry the virus--but they can be transmitted through skin (or saliva) contact. The prescription drug acyclovir can shorten the course of the infection.

What's That Bug?

Copyright © 2003 Ginny Graves. Reprinted with permission from the April 2000 issue of Parents Magazine.

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