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possible cause A common cold or other viral infection is probably the cause.

action Follow the self-help measures for treating a child with a cold (right). If your child has a fever, take steps to reduce it (see Bringing down a fever, p.77). Your child's symptoms should begin to improve after a few days. If they do not or if your child develops other symptoms, consult your doctor.

possible cause A foreign body, such as a bead or a peanut, may be lodged in your child's nose and may have caused an infection. Consult your doctor.

action Never try to remove a foreign body from your child's nose yourself, because you may only force it further into the nose. Your doctor may be able to remove the obstruction. However, if the foreign body is difficult to reach, your child may need to be admitted to hospital for a minor operation under general anaesthetic to remove it. The infection should then clear up by itself, but in some cases antibiotics are needed to treat it.

possible cause Seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) is a possibility. This condition is caused by an allergy to pollen and usually occurs in the spring or the summer.

action If possible, keep your child inside when the pollen count is high, and keep him or her away from areas of long grass. Oral antihistamine drugs may help and are available over the counter. If these measures do not help, consult your doctor.

self-help Treating a child with a cold

Children often have 4-6 colds a year until their bodies start to build up immunity to the numerous viruses that can cause a cold. Infections are particularly common after a child joins a playgroup or school. The following measures may help:

• Encourage your child to drink fluids.

• Give liquid paracetamol.

• Keep the air in your child's room moist by placing wet towels near a radiator or by using a humidifier.

• Try to teach your child to blow his or her nose one nostril at a time.

• Apply a barrier cream, such as petroleum jelly, around your child's nose and upper lip to prevent soreness.

• If your baby has difficulty feeding because of a blocked nose, try giving him or her the recommended dose of children's nose drops before a feed.

Towel keeps vapour

Bowl of hot water

Towel keeps vapour

Bowl of hot water

Relieving congestion

Inhaling steam from a bowl of hot, but not boiling, water can help clear a blocked nose. Children should always be supervised.

Sore throats are common in childhood. An older child will usually tell you if his or her throat hurts. In a baby or a young child, the first sign you may have that something is wrong may be a reluctance to eat because of the pain caused by swallowing. Most sore throats are the result of minor viral infections that clear up within 2-3 days without the need for medical treatment. In a few cases, however, antibiotics may be needed to treat a bacterial infection.

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