When your baby gets a cold, it will often have a stuffy nose, tickly coughs and teary eyes. A cold is a virus infection that affects your baby’s nose and throat. Your baby may have runny or thick mucus, called catarrh, flowing from the nose and mouth.
Babies get the common cold a lot because they haven’t yet gained immunity to common illnesses. This will lessen as they become older and their immunity improves.
There is no cure for the common cold. It goes away on its own after a few days to weeks. Caring for your baby involves relieving their symptoms and keeping them comfortable. If your baby is less than three months old when they catch a cold, you should see your healthcare provider.
Your baby can get a cold from contaminated surfaces or from direct contact with an infected person. Your baby may show symptoms like a runny nose, mucus, sneezing, coughing, fever, discomfort, sleeplessness and loss of appetite.
The virus that causes the common cold can not be treated with antibiotics or cough syrups and you should not request your healthcare provider for these medicines. Your baby will begin to feel better after a period of three days to a week. Pain medication can be used to ease symptoms and may allow your baby to sleep as usual. Make sure that you get the correct form and dose for use in babies.
You should take your baby to the healthcare provider if they are less than three months old, have a high fever and have difficulty breathing. These are signs that your baby may be in distress.
Regularly washing your hands with water and soap is the most effective way to prevent your baby from catching a cold. Do the following to keep your baby safe:
- Wash your hands with water and soap before feeding or carrying your baby.
- Reduce contacts between visitors and your baby. Visitors should wash their hands before they touch your baby.
- Keep your baby away from anyone who has the common cold, both visitors and other members of your household. Use separate utensils for your baby and someone who is ill.
- Keep the baby's toys clean by washing and disinfecting them. Avoid having your baby share toys with their older siblings or others.
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow or into tissues that you dispose of immediately.
- Ensure your baby is up to date on all necessary immunisations. You can get more information about immunisations at your healthcare centre.
- Ensure the baby drinks plenty of fluids, especially breastmilk and water (at room temperature).
- For babies who are taking infant formula, ensure they feed as normal. Increase frequency the of feeds if baby is irritable and not eating as much as usual.
- You can give babies older than 6 months vitamin C supplements.
- Clear mucus from your baby's nose with a mucus extractor or by gently sucking on their nostrils and spitting it out. Dried mucus can be loosened by moistening with salt-water drops.
- Dress your baby warmly, but make sure that does not make them uncomfortable.
- You can apply petroleum jelly (vaseline) all around the nostrils to limit irritation and soreness.
- Use a mild pain reliever like paracetamol or ibuprofen drops to relieve fever and discomfort.
- Babies may benefit from putting drops of eucalyptus oil on their clothes, not on their skin. This can help keep their airways clear for longer.
- Steam inhalation should not be done with young babies as this can cause discomfort. Using a humidifier is a better option.
- Allow your baby to rest well, but feed your baby on schedule.
- Do not give cough or cold mixtures to babies. It is not safe and can worsen their condition.
When babies have a cold (which may happen several times in their first year), their body's immune system begins to identify the cold virus and builds resistance to it. Try to make your baby as comfortable as possible as their symptoms clear. If your baby begins to show symptoms, such as high fever and breathing or hearing difficulties, visit your healthcare provider.