Published
May 31, 2024
in
Colds
Published
May 31, 2024
5/31/24
in
Colds

All about summer colds: What parents need to know

Allergies, summer flu, or summer cold? It can be hard to tell. In any case, kids getting sick during the summer can really put a damper on your fun-in-the-sun plans. Luckily for you, we’ve asked Summer Health pediatrician Marcy Borieux, MD, FAAP to share a few important facts about summer colds in children.
Megan N. Freeland, PharmD
Written by
Megan N. Freeland, PharmD
Content Writer
Dr. Marcy Borieux
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Marcy Borieux
Pediatrician

What causes summer colds in children?

Colds are quite common. In fact, they’re the most common type of illness in the US. Children are especially prone to colds. While they can have as many as 12 in a year (!), on average, children less than 6 years old will have 6 to 8 colds in a year. While the majority of those colds will happen during the cooler months, children do catch colds during the summer too.

That’s because even though the name would have you believe otherwise, colds aren’t caused by cold temperatures. They’re caused by viruses. 

Rhinoviruses are the most frequent cold-causing culprits and there are hundreds of types of rhinoviruses (equal parts gross and fascinating)! Winter colds are typically caused by these rhinoviruses.

Summer colds in children are typically caused by enteroviruses. Enteroviruses are particularly active between the months of June and October, which is why the colds they cause usually happen during the summer.

What are the typical symptoms of summer colds?

All things considered, although winter and summer colds are caused by different viruses, the symptoms are similar. Common cold symptoms include:

  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose
  • Cough 
  • Sore throat

A child with a cold may or may not run a fever. Fevers (above 100.4°F) are most likely in the first 3 days of a cold. 

These symptoms can also make it harder for children to sleep or eat well. 

A helpful reminder from Dr. Marcy: if your child has symptoms of a summer cold but doesn’t have a fever and is still their happy, playful self, they might have seasonal allergies rather than a cold. For help identifying which may be the case for your child, Summer Health’s expert pediatricians are just a text away.

How long do summer colds last?

Cold symptoms are most noticeable during the first 10 days of getting sick, but some symptoms may linger.

When should I contact a pediatrician for my child’s summer cold?

Dr. Marcy suggests consulting your local pediatrician or a Summer Health pediatrician if your child:

  • Isn’t drinking fluids well
  • Isn’t urinating regularly
  • Has any trouble breathing, such as rapid, slow, or noisy breathing, or pauses in their breathing
  • Is lethargic or less alert than usual
  • Is irritable and can’t be consoled or soothed
  • Has a fever that lasts more than 2-3 days
  • Has worsening symptoms 

FAQs: Summer colds in children

Can children get a fever in the summer?

Yes, fevers are our bodies’ response to certain germs. So it’s possible for your little one to get a fever at any time of the year, including the summer.

Can children get the flu in the summer?

The flu is caused by the influenza virus, which is most active between October and May — a period of time known as flu season. While it’s possible to get the flu anytime, it’s more likely during those months.

What is the difference between the flu and a summer cold?

According to Dr. Marcy, there’s overlap between symptoms of the flu and summer cold symptoms. Both may cause symptoms like cough, runny nose, or nasal congestion. Both can also cause a fever. The flu also typically comes along with body aches, fatigue, and lethargy.

Some cold-like symptoms during the spring or summer are due to seasonal allergies, depending on where you live. Seasonal allergies are usually not associated with a fever, and are less likely to affect a child’s energy levels.

How to prevent summer colds in children

While there’s no surefire way for your little one to avoid a cold, there are things you can do to lower their risk of catching or spreading one. Dr. Marcy recommends helping your child:

  • Wash their hands well and often
  • Avoid sharing cups or utensils, to the extent possible (It may be harder for babies and young toddlers to avoid swapping germs with other babies and toddlers by mouth!) 
  • Avoid indoor crowded areas when they’re sick
  • Opt out of school/daycare/camp when they’re actively sick with a fever 

How to treat summer colds in children

There’s no cure for the common cold. While many parents think antibiotics will help make their child feel better, antibiotics only work against bacteria — not viruses. And colds are caused by rhinoviruses, enteroviruses, and other viruses — not bacteria. 

This means the best way to help your child through a cold is to address their symptoms. Many newborns, infants, and young children are too young to take over-the-counter cold medicines, but there are useful home remedies you can use, as well as some safe medications depending on your child’s age. 

Keep your child hydrated. Encourage them to drink fluids like water or broths often.

To help with a stuffy nose, relieve congestion. 

  • Use infant nasal saline drops & gentle suction to loosen and remove mucus. 
  • Use a cool mist humidifier, but be sure to keep it clean so that it doesn’t become moldy.
  • Use a shower to create steam inside a bathroom and allow your child to breathe in the moist air. 

To treat fever or any pain, such as a sore throat, use pain relievers. Give your child the appropriate dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol). If your child is 6 months or older, you may give ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Follow the instructions on the packaging closely to ensure you give the right amount.

To help with a cough and congestion — only for children 12 months of age or older — you may give honey. Remember honey is not safe for infants under 12 months of age.

If you suspect your child may have allergy symptoms rather than cold symptoms, consult your local pediatrician or text a Summer Health pediatrician. They may recommend giving your child an over-the-counter children’s antihistamine.

References

UpToDate. Patient education: The common cold in children (Beyond the Basics). https://www.uptodate.com/contents/the-common-cold-in-children-beyond-the-basics/print

NIH: News in Health. Catching a Cold When It’s Warm. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2012/06/catching-cold-when-its-warm

Megan N. Freeland, PharmD
Content Writer
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