What is 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 main indicators of a cold.
Babies are especially susceptible to the common cold, in part because they’re often around other older children. Also, they have yet to develop immunity to many common infections. Within the first year of life, most babies have up to seven colds; more if they’re in child care centers.
Treatment for the common cold in babies involves easing their symptoms, such as by providing fluids, keeping the air moist and helping them keep their nasal passages open. 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.
How common is common cold in babies?
Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of common cold in babies?
The common symptoms of common cold in babies are:
- Reddened eyes
- Sore throat
- Stuffy, runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Irritability and restlessness
- Swollen lymph nodes, which are under his armpits, on his neck and the back of his head
Your baby may be having trouble breathing through his nose if he’s all stuffed up, so feeding will probably be difficult. Babies can’t blow their noses, so you’ll have to help your baby to clear the mucus.
If your baby has been sleeping through the night, you’ll be reminded of those first few weeks of life. He’ll probably wake up several times because his nose is stuffy. Expect to be up with your baby, comforting him and wiping his nose.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If your baby has any signs or symptoms listed above or you have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes common cold in babies?
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. Rhinoviruses are the most common.
Once infected by a virus, your baby generally becomes immune to that virus. But because so many viruses cause colds, your baby may have several colds a year and many throughout his or her lifetime. Also, some viruses don’t produce lasting immunity.
A common cold virus enters your baby’s mouth, nose or eyes. Your baby can be infected with a virus by:
- When someone who is sick coughs, sneezes or talks, he or she might directly spread the virus to your baby.
- Direct contact. Someone with a cold who touches your baby’s hand can spread the cold virus to your baby, who can become infected after touching his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
- Contaminated surfaces. Some viruses live on surfaces for two hours or longer. Your baby may catch a virus by touching a contaminated surface, such as a toy.
What increases my risk for common cold in babies?
There are many risk factors for common cold in babies, such as:
- Immature immune systems. Infants are, by nature, at risk of common colds because they haven’t yet been exposed to or developed resistance to most of the viruses that cause them.
- Exposure to other children. Infants spend time with other children, who don’t always wash their hands and cover their coughs and sneezes, which increases your baby’s risk of catching a cold.
- Time of year. Both children and adults are more susceptible to colds from fall to late spring.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is common cold in babies diagnosed?
Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
How is common cold in babies treated?
There’s no cure for the common cold. Antibiotics don’t work against cold viruses. Try to make your baby more comfortable with measures such as suctioning nasal mucus and keeping the air moist.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications generally should be avoided in babies. You can use fever-reducing medications, carefully following dosing directions, if a fever is making your child uncomfortable. Cough and cold medications aren’t safe for infants and young children.
OTC pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) might relieve discomfort associated with a fever. However, these medications don’t kill the cold virus. In fact, allowing your child to have a low-grade fever might help the body fight the virus.
Don’t give acetaminophen to children under 3 months of age, and be especially careful when giving acetaminophen to older babies and children because the dosing guidelines can be confusing. Call your doctor if you have questions about the right dosage for your baby.
Ibuprofen (Children’s Motrin, Advil, others) also is OK, but only if your child is 6 months old or older.
Don’t give these medications to your baby if he or she is dehydrated or vomiting continuously.
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.
Cough and cold medications
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strongly recommends against giving over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines to children younger than age 2. OTC cough and cold medicines don’t treat the underlying cause of a child’s cold and won’t make it go away sooner, and can be dangerous to your baby.
In June 2008, manufacturers voluntarily removed infant cough and cold medications from the market. They also modified product labels on the remaining OTC cough and cold medicines to warn people not to use them in children under 4 years of age because of safety concerns.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage common cold in babies?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with common cold in babies:
- Offer plenty of fluids. Liquids are important to avoid dehydration. Encourage your baby to take in the usual amount of fluids. Extra fluids aren’t necessary. If you’re breast-feeding your baby, keep it up. Breast milk offers extra protection from cold-causing germs.
- Thin the mucus. Your baby’s doctor may recommend saline nose drops to loosen thick nasal mucus. Look for these OTC drops in your local pharmacy.
- Suction your baby’s nose. Keep your baby’s nasal passages clear with a rubber-bulb syringe. Squeeze the bulb syringe to expel the air. Then insert the tip of the bulb about 1/4 to 1/2 inch (0.64 to 1.27 centimeters) into your baby’s nostril, pointing toward the back and side of the nose.
- Release the bulb, holding it in place while it suctions the mucus from your baby’s nose. Remove the syringe from your baby’s nostril, and empty the contents onto a tissue by squeezing the bulb rapidly while holding the tip down. Repeat as often as needed for each nostril. Clean the bulb syringe with soap and water.
- Moisten the air. Running a cool-water humidifier in your baby’s room can ease nasal congestion. Change the water daily and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning the unit.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: September 22, 2017 | Last Modified: December 8, 2019
Common cold in babies. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold-in-babies/home/ovc-20204277. Accessed September 22, 2017.
Common cold. https://www.babycentre.co.uk/a78/common-cold. Accessed September 22, 2017.