Every baby is "god's gift" for the entire family. He/She enters a family as a BIG bundle of JOY. We want to see them in pink of year around. Thus, it can be heartbreaking to watch your baby suffer his first cold. He will be uncomfortable, snuffling, and may have trouble feeding. But there's a lot you can do to ease your baby's discomfort. And rest assured, it's called the COMMON COLD for a reason - it's very common and it's usually not serious. We as Pediatricians see as many as 8-10 bouts of common cold in first 2 years of babies life. That's a lot of long nights.
What causes colds?
Colds are infections of the mouth, nose and throat caused by one of many different viruses. Babies tend to get a lot of colds because their immune systems (Power of fighting back infection) are still developing and gaining strength. When someone with a cold sneezes or coughs, the cold virus is released into the air to be inhaled by someone else. This is how colds spread. It can also spread through hand-to hand contact. So always wash your hands after blowing your nose.
How does cold affect babies?
If your baby has a common cold, you may notice some of the following:
- Fever of up to 101 degrees Fahrenheit
- Reddened eyes
- Sore throat
- Ear ache
- Stuffy, runny nose
- Irritability and restlessness
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen lymph nodes (under his armpits, on his neck, and on the back of his head)
- Your baby may have trouble breathing through his nose if he's all stuffed up, so feeding will probably be difficult.
Usually, children can't blow their own noses until about the age of four, so you'll have to help your baby 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 during the night due to his discomfort and difficulty breathing. Expect to be up with your baby, comforting him and wiping his nose.
How long does cold generally last?
Symptoms generally abate after three to 10 days, though in very young babies they may last up to two weeks. Most babies who are exposed to older children will experience six to ten colds during their first year. It may seem as if his nose is runny all winter long. If your child goes to a daycare center or a play school, he can have as many as 12 colds per year!
Can I help prevent my child from getting a cold?
Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to protect your baby's health. It passes your antibodies- chemicals in your body that fight infections - to your baby. This isn't a foolproof way to protect your baby's health, but breastfed babies are better at fending off colds and other infections.You can also protect your child by keeping those who are ill away from him. Or ask them to wash their hands thoroughly before handling your baby or his things. Giving up smoking, if you or your spouse smoke, may also help. Children who live with smokers have more colds and their colds last longer than babies who aren't exposed to smoke. Refrain from taking your baby to areas where someone has been smoking.
When should I consult the doctor if my baby has a cold?
If your baby is under three months old, take him to the doctor at the first sign of illness.Also take your baby to the doctor if:
- His cold persists for more than three days.
- His temperature climbs above 101 degrees Fahrenheit
- He is having trouble breathing.
- He has a cough that won't go away.
- He is rubbing his ears and seems irritated - this could signal an ear infection.
- He is coughing up green, yellow or brown mucus, or the mucus is running from his nose
Colds that are not treated properly can lead to more serious bacterial infections like pneumonia, bronchitis, flu or ear infections.
How do I treat a cold?
Your baby's cold will go away on its own. But there are a few things you can do to ease his distress:
- Make sure your baby gets plenty of rest.
- Encourage your baby to have extra breast milk or feeds. If your baby is formula-fed or on solids, he can have water too. You could also increase the amount of vitamin C-rich fruit juices. This will keep him hydrated and bring down his fever if he has one.
- If he has a fever, you could also give him paracetamol suspension under a doctor's direction. But only if he is three months or older. Make sure to consult your doctor before giving your baby any medication. Don't give him any cold remedies without consulting your doctor. In children under one year of age, over-the-counter cold medications often do more harm than good, and cough medicines have been shown to be no better than a non medicated syrup for easing symptoms.
- If your baby is congested, elevate the head of the mattress by putting an old towel or two under the mattress. Pillows can be a suffocation hazard, so avoid using pillows to prop your baby up.
- Your baby will be too young to blow his nose. So help him breathe more easily by wiping his nose for him. You can also dab a little petroleum jelly to the outside of your baby's nostrils to reduce any irritation to his skin.
- If your baby is having trouble feeding with a stuffy nose, you may like to ask your paediatrician to prescribe nasal saline drops. Saline water drops do not have any side effects and can be easily used several times a day. Some parents also use a suction bulb to clear the nose of salt water and mucus. If your baby has a stuffy nose without any other symptoms, check his nostrils for foreign objects. Even young babies are capable of putting things up there.
Colds are a fact of life. Once you've survived your baby's first one, you'll know what to expect with the next