Babies are vulnerable to viral infections such as the common cold and the cough, owing to a weak immune system. New parents might be distressed with the repeated occurrence of colds and coughs in their babies. It is important to understand the symptoms, duration, treatment, and home remedies to keep babies away from these infections.

Cold in Babies

Common cold or coryza is a viral infection of the nose and the throat. According to the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), babies might have 8 to 10 episodes of cold in a year. Most often, babies experience only mild symptoms that include:

  • Running nose

  • Mild fever

  • Dry cough

  • Crankiness

  • Sore throat (not so easy to identify in babies)

Colds are generally caused by viruses that spread easily from person to person. They spread through skin contact or through the transmission of infected respiratory droplets when a person sneezes or coughs. In babies, colds can be caused due to touching, kissing, cuddling, or while playing with toys contaminated with infected droplets.

The common cold usually lasts for about 8 to 10 days (a maximum of 14 days) in babies and young children. 

Cough in Babies 

A baby’s cough can mean or indicate anything. Most often, it is a symptom of a common cold. In general, cough is a reflex in response to foreign irritants (bacteria, virus, dust, dirt, parasite) that enters our throat. 

Coughing serves as a method to clear our airways, get rid of mucus (a normal, slippery, and stringy fluid in the nose) or phlegm (mucus which is thicker than normal), or a lodged piece of food.

Babies can have either dry (without mucus) or wet cough (with mucus). 

  • Babies have dry coughs as a result of colds and allergies.

  • A wet cough is caused as a result of a bacterial infection that results in the production of mucus.

In rare cases, babies might have pneumonia baby cough, whooping baby cough, or asthma baby cough. Talking to a paediatrician can help understand more about these types of baby coughs.

Symptoms of a baby cough include a runny or a stuffy nose and a sore throat. Baby coughs are usually dry but it can sometimes be associated with a slight fever in the night. Baby coughs are either caused by viruses or bacteria.

Home Remedies to Treat Colds and Coughs in Babies

Checking with a paediatrician before giving any medications for colds and coughs to babies, is of foremost importance. Usually, baby colds and coughs can be treated with various home remedies. Here are 8 quick natural and safe remedies to treat cold and cough of infants/babies:

1. Breastfeeding is the first and foremost solution to treat cold and cough in babies. Breast milk (also known as mother's milk, is the milk produced by mammary glands located in the breast of a human female) contains healthy bacteria, antibodies, white blood cells, antimicrobials, cell wall protectors, immunoglobulins, proteins, enzymes and, hormones, that protect babies from illnesses like cold and cough. It also builds up their immunity to fight against bacteria, germs, and viruses. 

2. Vapour rubs for instant relief. This remedy is suitable only for babies above 4 months of age. Applying vapour rubs to the bottom of their feet and covering their feet with socks, allows the airways to open up and thus, breaks down the mucus. 

3. Steam inhalation is recommended about 2 to 3 times a day. Steam inhalation helps to clear the blockage and loosen the mucus in the baby's nose. The easiest way is to turn the bathroom into a steam room by keeping the shower on hot, with the doors and windows shut. Sitting with the baby inside this steamed room is enough to relieve nasal congestion and relieve colds.

4. Elevating baby's head to ease cold and congestion. Elevating a baby’s head slightly, using a pillow helps them breathe easily during congestion due to colds or wet coughs.

5. Saline nasal drops are safe for babies. Saline nasal drops will thin the mucus in a baby’s nose and reduce swelling (or inflammation due to mucus production). It is safe to use these nasal drops about 2 times a day, after consultation with your doctor.

6. Honey and ginger water to relieve symptoms of cold and ease the throat. In babies over 12 months, the anti inflammatory and antioxidative properties of honey and ginger can help suppress a cold. 

Ginger and honey are packed with nutrients and are an age-old home remedy for treating colds and coughs. Parents must check with their paediatrician before resorting to this remedy for babies below 12 months of age.

7. Using humidifiers for reducing congestion and easy breathing. Turning on a humidifier (an electrical appliance that increases moisture (humidity) in a room or a building)) in a baby’s room is known to be helpful during colds and coughs. 

8. Encourage rest. To build a healthy immune system, sleep is the key. When babies have a cold and cough, they can be very restless and irritable. Rest can help babies fight off cough and cold. 

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.