While babies are born with some of their mothers' immunity to illness, they're never fully protected against the collection of viruses that
cause upper respiratory infections. In fact, children under six years of age average six to eight colds every year with symptoms lasting some 14 days each time. As difficult as it is to see your little one suffer, there are things you can do to help your baby stay comfortable through the dreaded first cold.
Cold symptoms typically appear one to two days after exposure. And the culprit is likely someone else with a cold who has transmitted the virus via direct contact with your baby, or by coughing or sneezing nearby. Nasal congestion and fever is a sure sign your baby has a cold, although some infants will also experience clear, yellow or green-coloured discharge from their noses. Other signs that they caught the cold bug include coughing, irritability, trouble sleeping and little interest in eating.
Most of the time, your baby will recover from a cold without the need for a doctor’s visit. During this time, encourage your baby to take in liquids to avoid dehydration. If your child’s nasal congestion is preventing him or her from breathing, drinking or eating properly, you can try clearing the nose with an all-natural saline solution available without a prescription. Using a rubber suction bulb to extract mucus before feeding or sleeping should also help, but will likely work better with younger infants who won’t resist its use as much as an older child might.
Setting a cold-mist humidifier in your baby’s room can also help clear congestion and will make him or her more comfortable. Be sure to change the water frequently and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning to prevent mold. Taking your baby into the washroom while you run a hot shower is another easy way to help clear his or her air passages so that your baby can get some relief.
Finally, when your baby recovers, do your best to keep further colds at bay by keeping your infant away from others who are obviously sick. Wash children’s hands frequently and teach them how to do it properly themselves when they’re able. Also be sure to clean toys and play areas, especially when used by multiple kids.
While most babies will recover from a cold just fine, it’s good to be aware of symptoms that may signal other issues that will require a visit to the doctor. Whereas colds tend to progress slowly over several days, the flu hits hard and fast, often within hours. If your baby is tugging at the ears or develops a fever higher than 38C after the first three days of cold symptoms, it could mean an ear infection. Similarly, if the nasal congestion isn’t improving over the course of 14 days, a bacterial sinus infection may be to blame.
In any case, if your baby seems to be getting worse rather than better, or the symptoms seem more flu- than cold-like right off the bat, seek advice from your healthcare provider to get your baby on track to feeling better.