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- Common Cold in Babies
- How Can You Differentiate Cold From Flu, Some Other Illness or Allergies?
- What Are the Common Causes?
- Signs and Symptoms of Infant Cold
- Treatment for Cold
- Home Remedies for Infant Cold
- Tips to Minimise the Chances of Getting a Cold
- When to Consult a Doctor
- Is it Safe to Give Over-the-Counter(OTC) Cough and Cold Medicine to a Baby?
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Children catch a cold very often and that is primarily because their immune system is very immature. An infant may catch a cold if he is exposed to any one of the 200 viruses responsible for a common cold. Using medication for new-born or infants is not advisable until necessary. You can resort to home remedies listed out in this article to treat your infant’s cold unless your doctor says otherwise.
Common Cold in Babies
Common cold in babies is not very serious and is commonly seen in all growing kids. According to experts, children will get about 8 to 10 spells of cold by the time they are 2 years old. It is heart-wrenching to see little infants struggling to feed and stay uncomfortable throughout the night, but there is nothing to worry about as you can do multiple things to ease your baby’s discomfort.
How Can You Differentiate Cold From Flu, Some Other Illness or Allergies?
Differentiating between cold and flu can be a little tricky. If your little one has a running nose with clear mucus that may turn thicker in the following weeks, then your baby probably just has a cold. If the cold is accompanied by fever, then just watch your baby when the fever goes down. If your baby is active and playful when the fever is down, then it is only a cold but if your baby is restless and weak even when the fever is down, then it could mean that your baby is down with flu. Also, if your baby has a running nose accompanied by a cough and without fever, then your little one is probably just down with cold.
Flu or any other illness in children will come abruptly and most likely be accompanied by diarrhoea or vomiting. Allergy, on the other hand, has similar symptoms but is easy to differentiate. Allergies will not cause your little one to run a fever. The common symptoms of allergy in children are itchy and watery eyes and nose. There are repeated attacks of sneezing and skin develops rashes due to itching. Also, you will observe that in case of allergy, the mucus coming out of your baby’s nose will be clear all throughout and not change colour or thicken.
What Are the Common Causes?
Newborn baby cold can be caused by 200 viruses but the most common virus responsible for the common cold in babies is Rhinovirus. Common cold usually infects the nose and the throat. Now, the interesting fact about the cold is that once infected by a certain cold virus, your child becomes immune to that virus. But since there are many cold-causing viruses, hence your baby may suffer from several bouts of cold by the time he is 2 years old. Since cold is a communicable disease, this is how it enters your baby’s system:
- Through air: usually when an infected person coughs, talks, or sneezes, he may spread the virus
- Through touch: when an infected person touches your baby, he will pass the virus to your baby
- Through infected surfaces: your baby may get a virus by touching an infected toy or any other surface where the virus stays for 2 hours or longer.
Your baby will be at a higher risk of catching a common cold because of his immature immune system. Exposer to other children who may already be suffering from cold can also put your baby at a high risk of catching a cold. The climatic changes also make your baby susceptible to cold.
Signs and Symptoms of Infant Cold
You may observe the following signs and symptoms in your baby if he is infected by cold:
- Sore throat
- Reddened eyes
- Running nose
- Fever up to 101° F (38° Celsius)
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen lymph nodes under the armpits, back of the head and on the neck
Your baby is going to be restless and may stay awake due to the stuffy nose. Feeding will also become a problem. Since your baby will not be able to blow his nose, you will have to clean the mucus. Your baby will find it difficult to breathe through the nose and that will make him irritable.
Common cold when severe can cause few undesirable complications like:
- Severe ear infection which is caused when the bacteria or virus enters the space behind the eardrum.
- In some cases, cold provokes wheezing. This is irrespective of the fact whether your child suffers from asthma. Wheezing can become worse in children with asthma during cold.
- An unresolved common cold may lead to another condition called sinusitis.
- Other complications include pneumonia, bronchiolitis, and croup.
Treatment for Cold
The common cold doesn’t require very serious treatment. You can do a few simple things to ease the symptoms and distress. If the cold becomes severe and doesn’t go away even after a week, consult your doctor to ensure it is nothing serious.
- Ensure that your baby gets a lot of rest.
- Try and give your baby some extra feed. If your baby is on formula milk or solids, ensure that he drinks a lot of water. You can also give your baby fruits rich in vitamin C or juices to keep him hydrated.
- If your baby is 3 months and above, you can give your baby paracetamol for fever. But please ensure you consult your doctor before doing so. Self-medication is a strict no. Please do not give any medication for cold without consulting the doctor.
- In case of congestion, elevate your baby’s head by putting two soft towels under his head. Avoid the use of pillows as it may suffocate the baby.
- Wipe your baby’s nose to remove the flowing mucus. Use mild petroleum jelly to moisturise the skin around the nose to avoid any skin irritation.
- If your baby is finding it difficult to feed due to his stuffy nose, then speak to your doctor and request your doctor to prescribe saline nasal drop to clear the nose block.
- Ensure that any external products you use that are not home remedies, e.g. Vapo-rub, are applied only after a doctor’s recommendation.
If your baby only has a stuffy nose without any other symptoms of common cold, then check his nostrils for any foreign particle.
Home Remedies for Infant Cold
Home remedies work like magic in some cases and relieve babies as well as adults with a cough and cold. Here are some of them that may help your little one.
If your baby is an infant, ensure that you encourage him to take an extra feed and if your baby is older than 6 months then give him fruits rich in Vitamin C, homemade juice, and lots of water. For infants who are on formula milk, give them water in a separate feed bottle. This will help to keep your baby hydrated.
Spray Saline and Suck Out Mucus
Tilt your baby’s head backwards, and put two drops of saline water in each nostril to soften the mucus. Keep your baby’s head in that position for about 20 seconds. Then, squeeze the bulb of the syringe, insert the rubber tip of the bulb syringe inside one nostril, close the other nostril with one finger, slowly release the bulb to collect the mucus and saline water, then gently remove the syringe. Clean the syringe by squeezing the mucus out and repeat the same with the other nostril.
Keep the air inside the house moistened. Use a humidifier in your baby’s room. Dry climate can worsen cold and cough in infants.
Let your baby sleep and take rest as much as possible. When not asleep, ensure that your baby is involved in some quiet activities. Don’t let your little one get excited. If your baby is old enough then read to him or play his favourite video. Remember the more your baby rests, the faster he will heal.
Watch Out for Warning Signs
If the home remedies do not help to improve your baby’s condition, then get in touch with a doctor and seek his advice. If your baby is extremely uncomfortable, crying during feeds, constantly touching his ears while crying, or has teary eyes, then your baby may be suffering from something more than cold.
Help the Baby Cough
It is very difficult to get mucus out of your baby’s throat. Room humidifier, saline drops on nostrils and a gentle rub on the chest with a doctor recommended vaporiser can help to soften the mucus on the chest which your baby may just puke out. Your doctor may also suggest nebulisation, if necessary.
Tips to Minimise the Chances of Getting a Cold
By following basic hygiene at home and outside, you can help to minimize the number of times your baby gets cold. Here are a few preventive measures that will minimise the chances of your baby falling sick by a cold.
- Ensure that all members of the family, friends and outsiders wash their hands before picking the baby up.
- Always wash your hands and use a sanitizer before changing and cleaning the baby.
- Keep your baby away from the sick and infected people as much as possible. Cold is a communicable disease, hence, as an infected person can transfer the virus to your baby even without touching him.
- Also, ensure that your baby doesn’t get exposed to smoking. This can cause respiratory problems in your little one.
- If your baby is already on solids, give him fruits rich in vitamin C or juices to keep him hydrated and ensure that he drinks a lot of water.
- Breastfeed your infant as much as you can so that he can reap all the benefits of breastmilk.
- Use a room humidifier during dry weather conditions to keep the air inside your home moistened.
When to Consult a Doctor
For babies younger than 3 months, consult the doctor at the first sign of cold and fever. For babies between 3 to 6 months, consult the doctor if the fever goes up to 101° F (38° C). And for babies above 6 months, you can wait to consult the doctor if the fever shoots to 102° F (39° C). Irrespective of your baby’s age you must consult the doctor if:
- The fever lasts for more than 2 days.
- If you observe rapid breathing, wheezing or gasping.
- If your baby pulls or rubs his ears while crying. Babies who cry while feeding or abnormally need immediate attention.
- Gloopy or tearing eyes which may mean that your baby is suffering from pinkeye.
- Extreme uneasiness or change in sleeping or eating habits.
- If the remedies used for cold fail to work.
- If the symptoms of cold last and worsen after 5 to 7 days of cold.
Is it Safe to Give Over-the-Counter(OTC) Cough and Cold Medicine to a Baby?
OTC is a strict no for children below 6 months. In fact, it has been observed that OTC causes side effects in children. Cold and cough medications don’t prevent your baby from cold or even shorten the period of cold. It may only give your baby some temporary relief. It is definitely not worth taking the risk.
A common problem among children of all ages, cold is a little harder to manage in infants as they are unable to expel mucus without help. It is important to monitor them and to know when to reach out to a doctor for a remedy.