Children's Hospital Colorado

Respiratory Health and Asthma

A girl with long brown hair and wearing a light blue fleece jacket holds up her arm across her mouth while coughing.

Dealing with a child who’s got a cold is definitely one of the not-so-fun things about parenting. Most viruses will pass eventually, but what if your child seems to be constantly battling the sniffles or is suffering from scarier symptoms, like trouble breathing? In a non-emergency situation, your best bet is to contact your pediatrician or call our ParentSmart Healthline at 1-855-KID-INFO (543-4636). Our experienced pediatric nurses will be able to answer any questions and help you determine if your child should go to urgent care.

Preschool-aged children can have between six and 12 illnesses per year. This means your child might be sick once a month. It can be frustrating for parents to deal with a seemingly endless stream of runny noses, sore throats and low-grade fevers, but this is actually a sign that your child’s immune system is developing normally. 

Kids in day care and kids with older siblings are more likely to have frequent illnesses, so make sure they fight germs by washing their hands often, getting lots of rest and eating nutritious food.

Source: Dr. Monica Federico

Unfortunately, it’s been proven that most common cold medicines don’t help cough or cold symptoms in children. A more effective treatment is using a nasal saline spray or rinse and gentle nasal suctioning to relieve a younger child’s congestion. Honey is also a safe and soothing cold remedy that can benefit children over 1 year old. 

Have more questions about which cold and cough remedies you should use? Our experienced pediatric nurses are available 24/7 through the ParentSmart Healthline at 1-855-KID-INFO (543-4636) to help you figure out how to best care for your child.

Source: Dr. Monica Federico

Colds and coughs can last for days. If your child is still coughing after seven days or has a persistent fever and cough, you should consider calling your primary care doctor. If your child has any trouble breathing, call your primary care doctor immediately or go to the closest urgent care or emergency department .

Still have questions about your child’s cold or cough? Talk with one of our experienced pediatric nurses at the ParentSmart Healthline at 1-855-KID-INFO (543-4636). They’re available to help you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Source: Kate Michalek, PA-C

The flu shot cannot make your child sick because the particles of the virus that make up the shot are not alive or intact. When a child comes down with an illness shortly after receiving the flu shot, it is almost always a coincidence. Most children receive a flu shot during September or October— a time of year where it is very common to get other types of viruses. If your child gets sick after getting the flu shot, they are probably just sick with something else. 

Source: Dr. Gwen Kerby

Possible signs and symptoms of asthma are:

  • coughing/wheezing at night
  • coughing/wheezing during sports or with specific triggers
  • frequent colds that go to your child’s chest or last for more than 14 days.

The only way to know for sure if your child has asthma is to contact your primary care provider, who will see if an asthma inhaled symptom reliever like albuterol helps relieve the coughing. Learn more about parenting a child with asthma or make an appointment with the Breathing Institute.

Source: Dr. Monica Federico

Yes! In fact, it will make them healthier. Children with asthma often fall into a cycle of avoiding exercise, which can make them overweight and prone to more asthma symptoms. Being overweight increases the possibility of sleep apnea, which can make asthma worse. Exercise helps kids strengthen their breathing muscles and can open up the lungs.

Kids with well-controlled asthma can run and play hard and participate in any sport they’d like. Just make sure your child is taking their asthma medicines as directed by your doctor— these medicines will help them while they’re active. 

Contact your primary care doctor or the ParentSmart Healthline at 1-855-KID-INFO (543-4636) if you have any questions or concerns about your child participating in sports. 

Source: Bridget Raleigh, NP

Definitely. Cold weather can make kids with a cold or kids with asthma cough and wheeze, but that doesn’t mean they have to miss out on playtime. 

If your child’s asthma is triggered by cold air, make sure they wear a scarf or mask over their nose and mouth to warm the air they breathe. They may take albuterol before going outside to keep them from having trouble breathing in the cold air. 

If you have more questions about keeping your child healthy during a cold snap, talk with one of our experienced pediatric nurses at the ParentSmart Healthline at 1-855-KID-INFO (543-4636). They’re available to help you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Source: Dr. Gwen Kerby

When your child is diagnosed with asthma, your doctor will often prescribe two kinds of medication:

  • A quick-relief medicine (often albuterol) to stop your child’s coughing or wheezing; this medicine can be used every four hours
  • A controller medicine your child takes daily to prevent asthma symptoms by lessening the swelling in their lungs and keep the lungs open

You should never stop your child’s controller asthma medication unless you have talked with your primary care doctor or asthma specialist. Asthma medicines help your child’s lungs function normally. If they are stopped, the asthma symptoms may come back and it may take higher doses of medicine and more time to get your child’s asthma under control.

Watch videos about the different types of inhalers and how to use them.

Source: Dr. Gwen Kerby

Most controller medicines are inhaled steroids, but they’re not the kind of steroids that some athletes use. They are similar to the cortisone you’d use to soothe a skin rash. Inhaled steroids don’t cause weight gain or skin issues like acne. But inhaled steroids can affect your child’s dental health if they don’t rinse after using their inhaled steroid. 

Daily inhaled steroids have been shown to slightly affect a child’s growth. The effect is less than half of an inch, or less than one centimeter, over a child’s lifetime. Inhaled steroids are not nearly as strong as the medicine your doctor will have to use if your child must be treated for uncontrolled asthma. 

Source: Dr. Stan Szefler

It’s possible. Some children do “outgrow” asthma. Others, especially those with allergies or who have parents with asthma, are less likely to “outgrow” it. Some children have fewer and fewer symptoms as they get older, but may only need a quick-relief medicine like albuterol when they are sick with a cold or to get relief from certain triggers like smoking. Learn more about common asthma triggers.

Source: Dr. Stan Szefler

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