Colds are caused by viruses. There is no cure for the common cold. Antibiotics are of absolutely no use in viral colds. Eventually, your child’s own immune system will eliminate the infecting virus. In a given winter season, there may be several viruses active in the community at any one time. It is common for a child to acquire a second viral infection right on the heels of a first, making the entire period of illness stretch up to 15 to 20 days. It may appear as if this is one, very long-lasting cold when, in fact, it is probably two separate infections with two different viruses infecting your child back-to-back.
Once in a while, the cause of a runny nose (especially one-sided, thick, mucous discharge) can be a foreign body stuck up the nose. In addition, overuse of nasal sprays (other than homeopathic) can also produce a pattern of recurrent nasal discharge and cold-like symptoms.
The average duration of acute cold symptoms is 5 to 10 days. A fever is often present, lasting on average 3 to 4 days. The fever can range from 100 to 104 degrees. The cough is a prominent symptom. The duration of a cough associated with a cold is usually one week, but the cough may persist up to one month. The mucous of a runny nose from a cold is initially clear to white. Over a few days, however, it may develop into a yellow and even a green mucous. Yellow and green mucous are still signs of a viral illness unless these colors persist for more than 2 weeks. The yellow and green discharge is part of the healing phase of most viruses, and just a few days of green or yellow discharge does not mean that your child now has a bacterial infection, for example, a sinus infection. This is a common misconception. This “over-diagnosis” of a bacterial infection often leads to over-treatment with antibiotics.
There can be several complications of the common cold. Pneumonia and bronchitis from viruses or bacteria are possible, though not likely. There can be secondary infections such as ear infections, bacterial conjunctivitis, sinusitis, and impetigo.