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Anita Chandra-Puri, MD

Colds In Babies

How to treat baby’s cold and what to do if it gets worse.

What is a cold like for a baby?

If baby has a cold, or upper respiratory infection (URI), she’ll experience symptoms like a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or a low-grade fever. Baby might have a loss of appetite and have some irritability. Don’t worry though — if baby has a cold without complications, she’ll start to feel better after seven to 10 days.

What could be causing my baby’s cold?

Colds are pretty common in infants and young children. Younger children have smaller air passages in the nose, ear and throat areas, which can cause them to have trouble breathing. They also have weaker immune systems, which can make them more susceptible to colds. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), your child might have about eight to 10 colds in the first two years of life because colds spread easily among children — especially for kids who go to day care or have older siblings. Colds are caused by viruses, so to prevent baby from getting a cold, keep her away from anyone who’s sick and make sure you sanitize whatever she comes into contact with frequently (you’re not being overprotective by doing this!).

When should I take my baby to see the doctor with a cold?

If your child is younger than three months old, you should contact her physician, because baby’s immune system isn’t strong enough yet and she’s more susceptible to croup or pneumonia. At the first sign of a cold, talk to your baby’s doctor. Newborn babies may also have a hard time breastfeeding or bottle-feeding if they’re congested, which could lead to dehydration. You’ll want to monitor baby’s condition frequently (no matter her age) because you’ll need to bring her to the pediatrician if she’s dehydrated (signs include low energy, fewer wet diapers and dry mouth and skin), struggling to breathe, has a cough that doesn’t go away or has a fever over 102 degrees Fahrenheit.

What should I do to treat my baby’s cold?

You can use a humidifier or suctioning bulb to clear baby’s congestion and make her feel more comfortable. Keep her hydrated at all times. If baby has a headache or sinus pain, you can place a warm washcloth on her forehead for intervals of a couple of minutes. Cold medicine is not recommended for children under four years old — according to the AAP, it doesn’t benefit young children, and there’s a greater chance of overdosing if it’s combined with another product. But for babies two months and older, you can give them acetaminophen, or for babies six months and older, you can give them ibuprofen, to reduce aches and pains. And you can give kids over a year old some soothing liquids, like a little bit of honey with warm apple juice, to help with the congestion and sinus problems. Basically, caring for a baby who has a cold takes a lot of TLC and patience.

Plus, more from The Bump:

My Baby Get a Flu Shot?

Why Does Baby Have a Chronic Cough?

What Are Some Cold Medicine Alternatives for Babies

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