The average preschool child has at least six colds a year and they can last for weeks at a time.
The average preschool child has at least six colds a year and they can last for weeks at a time. iStock

Revealed: Why more kids get sick in winter

DURING winter it can seem like your child is continually sick and just as they get over cold, another one hits them.

In fact, the average preschool child has at least six colds a year and they can last for weeks at a time.

Why does this happen? Well young children are more prone to colds because they haven't had a chance to build up immunity to the more than 200 viruses that cause the illness.

The good news is that as your child grows older, they'll gradually build up immunity and get fewer colds.

Why are more colds happening at this time of year?

Did you know the season itself is not the cause of the rise in cold numbers during winter?

Colds are only more common in winter, especially in children, because we're indoors more and in closer contact with other humans.

Colds spread through sneezing, coughing and hand contact. So it spreads quicker when humans are in close contact.

For children, school or day care may have more indoor days due to the weather and they'll be interacting closely with other children who may be carrying a cold virus.

Because of this, it's important to teach your child how to reduce their chances of getting a cold or passing on a cold.

Teaching your child to always wash their hands thoroughly after sneezing, coughing and blowing noses, and before eating will help.

You can also teach your child to cough into her elbow to avoid getting germs on her hands and ensure they get plenty of vitamin C in their diet.

What can you do if your child shows signs of a cold?

Children are often miserable and irritable when the have a cold, but sadly there isn't any specific treatment you can administer to make it go away quicker.

That said, there are a number of steps you can take to make life easier for your child and manage the symptoms. These include:

Giving your child paracetamol in recommended doses for up to 48 hours.

If your breastfed child is younger than six months, offer extra breastfeeds.

If your formula-fed child is younger than six months, offer them the usual amount of formula and if they're struggling to get the feed in, then try smaller amounts more frequently.

If your child is older than six months, keep breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. You can also offer your child clear fluids, like water. If your child isn't hungry while he has a fever, that's OK.

For children older than 12 months, try giving your child saline nasal drops or spray or eucalyptus inhalant, which can ease a blocked nose.

It's also good idea for your child to take things easy, but there's no need to stay in bed so let your child decide how active they'll be.

Although it's likely your child won't be hungry, make sure he drinks lots of fluids to prevent dehydration Your child's appetite will come back as he starts to feel better.

You should avoid the following: aspirin, cough medicines, decongestants and antibiotics as they all won't help and may just cause more complications.

There's also no need to stay away from dairy products - they don't make extra mucus.

A cold isn't the flu

While a cold and the flu are both viral respiratory illnesses, they're caused by different viruses.

Hopefully you have got your child vaccinated for influenza, which is the best defence, but it's still possible for them to contract a strain of the flu and it's important to know the symptoms so you don't confuse it with a common cold.

The main difference is the flu will commonly cause a fever and headaches, while a cold rarely does so.

The flu can also cause intense fatigue and painful aches, as well as vomiting and nausea in young children.

If you think your child has contracted the flu, or you're simply unsure what the symptoms are indicating, book in to see your family GP.