Common cold in babies
Common cold in babies
A common cold is a viral infection of your baby's nose and throat. Nasal congestion and a runny nose are the primary signs of common cold in babies.
Babies are especially susceptible to the common cold, in part because they're often around other older children who don't always wash their hands. Also, they have yet to develop immunity to many common infections. Within the first year of life, most babies have up to seven colds.
Treatment for the common cold in babies involves easing their symptoms, such as by providing plenty of fluids and keeping the air moist. Very young infants must see a doctor at the first sign of the common cold because they're at greater risk of croup and pneumonia.
The first indication of the common cold in a baby is often:
Other signs of a common cold may include:
When to see a doctor
If your baby is younger than 2 to 3 months of age, call the doctor early in the illness. For newborns, a common cold can quickly develop into croup, pneumonia or another serious illness. Even without such complications, a stuffy nose can make it difficult for your baby to nurse or drink from a bottle. This can lead to dehydration. As your baby gets older, your doctor can guide you on when your baby needs to be seen by a doctor and when you can treat his or her cold at home.
Most colds are simply a nuisance. But it's important to take your baby's signs and symptoms seriously.
If your baby is 3 months old or older, call the doctor if he or she:
Seek medical help immediately if your baby:
The common cold is an infection of the nose and throat (upper respiratory tract infection) that can be caused by one of more than 100 viruses. The rhinovirus and coronavirus are common culprits and are highly contagious.
Once your baby has been infected by a virus, he or she generally becomes immune to that specific virus. But because there are so many viruses that cause colds, your baby may have several colds a year and many throughout his or her lifetime. Also, there are some viruses that don't produce lasting immunity.
A common cold virus enters your baby's body through his or her mouth or nose. Your baby may be infected with such a virus by:
A few factors put infants at higher risk of common colds.
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your baby's pediatrician or family doctor. Here's some information to help you get ready for your baby's appointment and know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time with your baby's doctor. For a common cold, some basic questions to ask the doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions you have.
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Treatments and drugs
Unfortunately, there's no cure for the common cold. Antibiotics don't work against cold viruses. The best you can do is take steps at home to try to make your baby more comfortable, such as suctioning mucus from his or her nose and keeping the air moist. Call the doctor early in the illness if your baby is younger than 3 months old.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications should generally be avoided in infants. Fever-reducing medications may be safely used — carefully following dosing directions — if fever is making your child uncomfortable. Cough and cold medications are not safe for infants and young children.
Ibuprofen (Children's Motrin, Advil, others) also is OK, but only if your child is 6 months old or older.
Do not give these medications to your baby if he or she is dehydrated or vomiting continuously.
Though aspirin is approved for use in children older than age 2, children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. This is because aspirin has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition, in such children. Since many viral illnesses look alike at the beginning, it is better to avoid aspirin use in children.
Cough and cold medications
In June 2008, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association voluntarily modified consumer product labels on OTC cough and cold medicines to state "do not use" in children under 4 years of age, and many companies have stopped manufacturing these products for young children.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Most of the time, you can treat an older baby's cold at home. Consider these suggestions:
The common cold typically spreads through infected respiratory droplets coughed or sneezed into the air. The best defense? Common sense and plenty of soap and water.
Simple preventive measures can go a long way toward keeping the common cold at bay.
Last Updated: 2013-05-29
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