Dr Mark Rosenthal

MD MB ChB FRCP FRCPCH BSc

Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine

also specialist in Food Allergies & Disorders of Sleep

A | A | A

T: 0207 351 8832

E: s.harvey@rbht.nhs.uk

A:The Royal Brompton Hospital, London, SW3 6NP

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Viral infection in children causes the same kinds of symptoms as they do in adults. However there are a couple of significant differences between your colds and those of your child.

child-coughing

Frequency

One of the biggest differences between viral infection in children and in adults is how often these infections occur. Children have coughs, colds and other minor viral infections much more often than adults. You may only have one or two colds a year, and you will probably only rarely catch the flu. Meanwhile, it is perfectly normal for your child to have ten or more colds or infections in a year, and it is much more likely that your child will pick up the flu when it is going round. It can actually seem as if your child has a cold that has lasted all winter, when in reality they have just been unlucky enough to keep catching one virus after another. As we grow older, we become less vulnerable to common viruses like colds because our immune system matures. It learns to recognise viruses that it has been exposed to before, so we don’t keep catching the same cold.

Symptoms and Severity

The symptoms of colds and viral infections are very similar for adults and children, with coughs, runny noses and fever all being common. However, there is a slightly higher risk of viral infection in children developing into a secondary infection, such as an ear infection or a chest infection such as pneumonia. These secondary infections are often bacterial, so unlike the original viral infection they can be treated with antibiotics. However, they can also be more serious than the original viral infection, so it is important to be aware of any changes in your child’s condition. If the symptoms become more severe, a high fever develops, or a cough goes on longer than expected, you should consult your doctor.

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