A common cold is a viral infection of the nose and throat in babies. Read the below article to learn more about the baby cold.
Little noses tend to catch a lot of colds. Though not serious, they can be tough on parents to see the babies suffer and are the biggest reason for pediatric visits. Common colds occur due to viruses or germs that infect the nose and throat. Babies can catch a cold almost eight times in the first year of their lives. When the parent knows how to make the child feel better and when to call a doctor, they can be more confident in handling the baby through the course of a cold.
There are more than 100 types of viruses that can cause common colds. As the baby's immune system that helps fight infections is still developing, they tend to catch a cold more often.
Cold causing viruses spread through the air when an infected person sneezes or coughs. These viruses can survive on objects and surfaces for several hours. When babies put toys or other objects in their mouth or touch other babies with colds, these viruses enter the body through their nose, mouth, or eyes.
Also, parents or caregivers who attend to the child can pass on the germs to them. Elder brothers and sisters may also carry the infection home from school. More commonly, babies catch a cold in fall or winter, especially in daycares, when the children play indoors and stay close by.
Symptoms of common cold start one to three days after the babies get infected and can last for about seven to ten days. Signs and symptoms which are noticed include:
Congested or runny nose.
Nasal discharge (which is watery and clear initially, later turns thick and green or yellow in color).
Difficulty in swallowing.
Dry cough (that worsens at night).
Crankiness and irritability.
Loss of appetite.
Trouble in taking feeds due to nasal congestion.
Slightly swollen glands in the neck.
Few serious symptoms are noted in illnesses that are not just due to the common cold. A doctor's visit needs to be planned in case of the following symptoms, that include:
High fever in an infant younger than two months.
Difficulty in breathing like fast breathing or wheezing (rattle-like coarse sounds heard when breathing).
Excessive crankiness or sleep.
Cough lasting for more than three weeks.
The Baby gets even sicker.
There is no cure for a baby cold. Most of them subside on their own within 7 to 10 days and do not turn into other serious conditions.
Antibiotics are generally not preferred for common colds, as these are caused by viruses and not bacteria. Some children who may develop bacterial infections causing ear pain or pneumonia (an infection of the lungs) may require treatment with antibiotics, as prescribed by the doctor. Babies should not be given over-the-counter (OTC) cold or cough medicines unless the doctor recommends using them. To reduce fever, the baby may be given Acetaminophen (Children's Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Children's Advil or Motrin). However, medicines containing Aspirin should be avoided as they can cause side effects in young children.
The following steps can be followed to make the baby feel better, they include:
Keeping the baby comfortable.
Keep the baby hydrated. Infants less than six months old can be breastfed or formula-fed. Infants older than six months can also be given water and 100 percent fresh fruit juices based on age.
Give the baby plenty of rest.
Babies younger than four years cannot blow their noses. The below tips can help babies get relief from blocked noses.
Use of Saline and Suction: Use over-the-counter saline (saltwater) spray or drops 15 minutes before feeding. The drops help loosen mucus in the nose, which can then be suctioned out using a rubber bulb. This clears the mucus and helps the baby breathe and suck during feeding. This process can be followed a few times a day to make the baby feel better.
Use of Petroleum Jelly: Dabbing petroleum jelly on the outside of the nostrils helps reduce irritation. Care must be taken to prevent petroleum jelly from accidentally entering the nose. The use of any kind of nasal sprays must be avoided in babies, which can cause further complications like congestion.
Use of Air Humidifier: Humidifiers or vaporizers can be used in the baby's room. Humidifiers moisten the air by releasing a cool and clean mist that helps in soothing a baby with dry nasal passages. The humidifier has to be cleaned thoroughly with soap and water to clean up any bacteria or mold that could have accumulated in it. Also, hot water vaporizers have to be avoided as they pose a risk of skin burns.
Sitting With the Baby in a Steamy Room: In case a humidifier is not available, the child can be taken into the bathroom, turn on the hot water, close the door and sit with the baby in the steamy room for around 10 to 15 minutes. The baby must be handled safely around hot water and must not be left unattended. A warm water bath may also be given to soothe the baby.
Extra Fluids: Keeping the child well hydrated by offering them more water, milk, and fruit juices helps to keep the baby's mouth and nose moist. Breast milk offers the extra advantage of providing protection against viruses and bacteria.
The baby, if feeling well, can continue with their regular activities of going to the daycare. The caregiver at the daycare must be kept informed about the baby's symptoms. However, in cases of fever or other symptoms, it is better to make the baby stay at home with the parents.
Though cold cannot be completely prevented, following a few simple steps can prevent catching cold frequently.
Hand washing is the best way to prevent the cold-causing virus from spreading. Adults and children must practice the healthy habit of washing hands with soap and water after coughing, sneezing, or returning home. In case of unavailability of soap and water, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or pre-moistened hand wipes can be used.
Babies must be kept up to date on the immunization chart. Taking recommended vaccines can help the child from contracting bacterial infections of the ears and lungs. Also, doctors recommend taking flu shots every year in babies older than six months of age to offer protection against flu viruses.
Colds are thought to occur more commonly in winters due to a cool climate. However, that is not the case. Rhinovirus, the virus responsible for causing colds, is more active at lower temperatures. In summers, a virus named non-polio enterovirus causes cold, and the symptoms experienced are similar to those caused by rhinovirus. The symptoms include:
Fever 101 to 104 F.
Symptoms usually clear up within a week. The best ways to prevent summer colds also include frequent hand washing and cleaning the baby stuff regularly.
Babies older than three months with a common cold do not need a doctor's checkup. However, when the parents notice a few serious symptoms, a consultation at the doctor's office is necessary. The symptoms include:
Fever in infants younger than three months.
Fever in babies 102 F or higher.
Difficulty in breathing.
Signs of dehydration like fewer wet diapers or no tears.
Not taking any fluids or food.
Symptoms that persist beyond a week or worsen with time.
Baby cold is the common cold that occurs in babies younger than two years of age. The little ones have more encounters with different viruses that cause colds, as they are still in the process of building their immunities. Though cold can be rough on their noses, the good news is frequent bouts of cold can actually help babies build a strong immunity to help fight germs, making them less susceptible to infections gradually. Though it can be hard on parents to manage cranky children, a little bit of patience and following simple tips to ease the sick baby can help a lot.
If the baby is suffering from a cold it is necessary to keep the nasal passage of the baby clear by suctioning or cleaning regularly. The child should be given lots of fluids to avoid dehydration in the body. If the cold gets severe the doctor should be consulted and nasal drops should be used.
If the cold has no complications such as fever, weakness, vomiting or anything else, it can resolve within 8 to 12 days. The maximum it may extend is 15 days. It is important to notice the symptoms carefully and if there are other signs, the doctor should be consulted.
Babies are more sensitive to the temperature around them because their body is growing and gradually adapting to the environment. So it is advised to maintain a temperature between 20 to 23 degree celsius around the baby to prevent both heat or cold.
The precautions essential to prevent a baby from cold include washing hands before touching or feeding the baby, keeping the child away from anyone who is sick, cleaning of the objects and toys used by the baby while playing, avoiding food items which are cold in low temperature weather and avoiding very frequent temperature changes.
The best way to check whether the baby is too cold at night is by touching the neck of the baby. If the baby is too cold, lethargic and less responsive, the pediatrician should be consulted immediately.
Congestion due to stuffy nose is very common in infants and is not a concern. It should be cleared regularly at home by the mother to avoid severe congestion which may involve lungs. Congestion which involves lungs can be suffocating as the airway passage is very small in babies and can block up easily. If this happens, a doctor should be consulted immediately.
If the symptoms of the cold such as a runny nose, nasal congestion or mild fever does not improve and rather get severe, the cold is considered serious and a doctor should be consulted immediately.
There are few remedies to treat a baby's runny nose at home, this involves suction technique with the help of a bulb suction. It helps to clear the nasal passage. Along with this saline drops can also be used to soften the stuffy nose mucus for easy suctioning.
Flu was one of the infections noticed in cases of children affected with COVID, however it can not be considered a firm symptom associated with COVID. COVID infection in children presents versatile symptoms which include cold, flu, or runny nose but also vary from one case to another. Thus it is not right to state that a runny nose is always a symptom present in a COVID-affected child.
Last reviewed at:
29 Apr 2022 - 6 min read
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