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How can I tell if my toddler has a cold or something more serious?

How can I tell if my toddler has a cold or something more serious?


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Use this list of cold symptoms and more severe symptoms to determine if your toddler likely has a common cold or might have a more serious illness, like the flu. Also, find out when to call the doctor and when to seek emergency care.

Cold symptoms in toddlers

A common cold can make your toddler uncomfortable but isn't dangerous. Typical cold symptoms include:

  • Runny nose with clear mucus that may thicken and turn yellow, gray, or green
  • Congestion
  • Mild coughing
  • Low-grade fever (but not always)

Symptoms that indicate your toddler has more than a cold

Call the doctor – your toddler may need to be seen immediately – if she has cold symptoms (see above) and any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever of 103 degrees F or higher
  • Symptoms that get worse or don't start to improve after a week
  • Dry, hacking cough, or severe cough
  • Lethargy
  • Unusual crankiness or fussiness
  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Also call the doctor if your toddler has:

  • Signs of an ear infection, such as ear tugging or ear drainage
  • Symptoms of pinkeye (conjunctivitis): typically there is a thick discharge and the white of one or both of eyes and the lower rim of either of his eyelids are red
  • Signs of mild dehydration, such as more than six hours without a wet diaper

Finally, give the doctor a call if you're concerned about any of your toddler's symptoms or behaviors, even if it's not mentioned above.

More serious respiratory illnesses in toddlers

If your toddler has symptoms listed above, she may have one of these common respiratory diseases:

  • Flu
  • RSV
  • Pneumonia
  • Whooping cough
  • Croup
  • Bronchitis

When to seek emergency medical care

If your toddler shows any signs of respiratory distress, seek immediate medical care (talk to the doctor, call 911, or go to the ER):

  • Turning blue
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rhythmic grunting with breathing
  • Flaring nostrils with breathing
  • Sucking in the skin above the collarbone or between or below the ribs
  • Whistling, coughing, or wheezing with breaths
  • Getting winded – when playing or talking, for example

If your toddler is not waking up or interacting or shows signs of serious dehydration, seek emergency medical care (call 911 or go to the ER).


Watch the video: How to tell if you have a cold, flu, or just allergies (July 2022).


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