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Colds, Coughs and Ear Infections (in Children)

What are Colds, Coughs and Ear Infections? 

Colds, coughs and ear infections are common ailments affecting children.


A cold often presents as excessive watery secretion (mucus) from your child’s nose. This is an infection caused by a virus and primarily affects your child’s nose and throat. These viruses are passed on by way of coughing or sneezing. It is normal for children, especially those in preschool, to have 8 or more colds a year. 


A cough is a sudden, forceful hacking sound caused by fast expulsion of air from the throat or airway to clear mucus or foreign irritants. The cough often develops with a cold or follows a cold in your child because of mucus trickling down the back of the throat. A cough can be transitory or persistent. 

Ear Infections

An ear infection is a disorder caused by the accumulation of nasal secretions in the middle ear and build-up of fluid behind the eardrum. Typically, an ear infection begins after your child gets a cold and is usually caused by bacteria. Children below 3 years of age are most susceptible to ear infections. 



  • A runny nose and a sore throat 
  • Blocked nose and difficulty breathing 
  • Fast, noisy breathing (wheezing)
  • Headache and tiredness or drowsiness
  • Raised temperature (light fever)
  • Dulled hearing or mild earache 
  • Reluctance to eat food 
  • Unusual irritability or persistent crying 


  • Emission of harsh sound from the throat
  • Difficulty breathing and wheezing 
  • Runny nose coupled with a sore throat
  • Listlessness and/or discomfort
  • Malaise with high temperature

Ear Infections

  • Earaches or ear drainage
  • Bulging, swollen or reddened eardrum 
  • Ear tugging (your child pulling their ear)
  • Trouble hearing or sleeping 
  • Your child crying more than usual
  • Poor appetite or difficulty feeding
  • Persistent irritability or restlessness



Most of the time, colds are worse in the first 2-3 days, then symptoms ease over the next 2-3 days and finally clears away on its own in a span of 5 to 7 days. There is no medication to cure the common cold, but they can be used to help treat the symptoms. Also, some home measures can ease the cold symptoms in your child quickly and effectively. 

  • Make sure your child drinks more fluids than normal and stays well hydrated.  
  • Use saline nose drops as they can reduce congestion and ease difficulty breathing.
  • Provide OTC drugs if your child has a fever, congestion, pain or discomfort.


  • Encourage family members to wash their hands regularly to stop the cold spreading to others.
  • Teach your child to cover their mouth when coughing and proper handwashing techniques.


Like the cold, most coughs improve on their own over time and there is usually nothing to worry about if your child is breathing, drinking or eating normally without wheezing. The best thing you can do is let the cough run its course.  

However, if your child is over 1 year, try a warm drink of lemon and honey (squeeze half a lemon plus 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey added into a mug of boiling water that is just warm at the time of drinking) to ease the cough. Sucking menthol drops or other medicated sweets can also help ease irritating coughs in older children.

Ear Infections

Ear infections do get better by themselves within about 3 days while hearing should improve within a few weeks. If your child has an earache but is otherwise well, you may provide the recommended dose of OTC pain relievers for a day. 

Occasionally, ear infections may recur and lead to a condition called ‘glue ear’ where sticky fluid builds up affecting your child's hearing. This may result in unclear speech or behavioral problems and needs to be treated by your physician.


Putting any oil, eardrops or cotton buds into your child’s ear should be avoided unless your physician recommends you do so. 


Ensure you do not smoke around your child and keep them away from other smokers. Studies show that children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are at an increased risk of catching a cold and cough, and thus ear infection compared to other kids.

See your physician and seek advice if your child’s cold symptoms are not relieved within 10 to 12 days, cough in 2 to 3 weeks and hearing problem by 5 to 6 weeks after the ear infection. 


Children are bound to get their share of colds, coughs and ear infections when they are little, but the problems become less frequent as they grow. Take heart from the fact that these infections, in fact, help strengthen your child’s immune system down the line.