09/21/2015 12:00 EDT | Updated 05/01/2016 01:53 EDT

Countdown To A Sick Day: A Timeline Of Family Sickness, From Kid To Parent

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Family suffering from cold

The kids have gone back to school and the cold season is brewing just around the corner. It’s not a coincidence. Your child isn’t only bringing home report cards and homework assignments; he or she may also carrying a cold that could easily spread to the entire family. On average, a child will have anywhere from six to ten colds in a year. In this hypothetical timeline, we’ll count down the days until illness takes hold, and share some smart preparation and prevention strategies with you.

Day one

The kid who sits next to your child in math class sneezes, spreading millions of tiny droplets that contain one of the viruses (more than 100) that cause the common cold. Just one to 30 particles are enough to produce infection. Rhinovirus is the villain here, responsible for up to 50 per cent of colds. Within 8 to 12 hours of your child inhaling those droplets, a virus has already begun to spread and make itself at home, ready to unleash a slew of symptoms. This is known as the incubation period.

Day two and three

The first symptoms make their appearance. A scratchy, sore throat, possibly a low-grade fever, fatigue, cough, and/or runny nose, plus more sneezes than you can count. At this stage, your child may sleep a bit longer, crave juice, and look for comfort from parents (meaning extra cuddles from mom). This is a good time to ensure plenty of rest, a good tactic to allow the body to concentrate on bolstering its immune system to fight the virus. A box of tissues and a bowl of homemade chicken soup should be on standby. For older children (6 years and older) over-the-ccounter medicines for reducing fever and easing congestion can be a child’s best friend right now.

Days four to six

Welcome to the symptoms associated with the common cold. Reaching this point means a nose that won’t just quit dripping, congestion that makes breathing a chore, and achiness that turns every other hour into naptime. A dry cough might appear, the result of post-nasal drip or a sore throat. These are the days when you want to do your best to keep sinuses clear to make breathing a bit easier.

Consider putting a cool mist humidifier in your child’s bedroom to help put moisture back in the air, keeping nasal passages lubricated and minimizing coughs. Experts suggest making sure that the humidifier’s filter is cleaned or replaced frequently to avoid mould formation.

Day seven

Finally, it seems that the barrage of symptoms and their severity are subsiding. Your child has turned a corner toward wellness again, but there is still some stuffiness and coughing happening. And there is talk about going back to school tomorrow. Keep up with clear broth and decongestants.

Day eight

Uh-oh. Was that dad sneezing away in the kitchen? It’s now his turn to start the march toward a full-blown cold. His child’s cold virus has been passed from his hand to his nose, maybe after wiping a runny nose. The cycle will continue unless you take steps to slow or stop the process this time!

Are you ready for the next rounds of colds? Make a list and check it twice: petroleum jelly to soothe raw noses, extra boxes of tissues, Children's TYLENOL Cold & Cough, and a medicine cabinet that includes TYLENOL Complete Cold, Cough & Flu Daytime and Nighttime Convenience Pack for the adults in the family too.