As adults, we know not to worry when we catch the common cold. It’s called the common cold for a reason after all. We all get it at some point and we know to wait it out, let it run its course and just try and stay as comfortable as possible in the meantime.
But when your child has a cold, it’s a different story, particularly if you have a baby who can’t tell you what’s wrong or if his symptoms have subsided. I’ve spoken with many young mothers and fathers caring for a sick child for the first time. It can be stressful and confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. Treating your baby when she has a cold is pretty straightforward.
First, if your child is under eight weeks and has a fever over 101.0 or just doesn’t seem to be acting like himself, contact your doctor. We’re extra careful with young babies because sickness can spread rapidly.
If your baby is simply displaying symptoms of the common cold, there are several ways you can help him or her feel more comfortable at home.
Use a bulb syringe.
Get a bulb syringe that has a sharper point, such as an ear bulb syringe. Squeeze the air out of the syringe, place it up into your baby’s nostril and then open the bulb and suck the mucus out. If the ear syringe doesn’t work, try one that uses your mouth suction to extract nasal mucus.
Use saline drops.
Place one saline drop in the left nostril then suction nasal mucous. Repeat on the other nostril.
Don’t use medications.
Do not give your baby cold medications. We used to give decongestants and cough suppressants to children under one year but found that many had reactions to them. Then, we didn’t know whether the baby had grown more sick due to the cold or the medicine.
Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for a fever.
If your baby has a fever and appears uncomfortable, you can give acetaminophen or ibuprofen every four hours to make him feel better.
Make sure your baby stays adequately hydrated. This means that you may need to feed him more frequently, especially since he may take less per feeding if he has trouble breathing.
Use all of these at-home remedies to keep your baby comfortable while the cold runs its course. If your child starts to show signs of any of the following, call your pediatrician:
Green nasal discharge:
When you see a color change or the mucous getting thicker, this may be a sign that bacteria have moved in on top of the virus and your child may need antibiotics.
An unusually bad cough:
A cough that lasts longer than five days, is worse at night or makes your child almost vomit is a sign that she needs a doctor’s care. If you hear wheezing, this is a sign that the infection has triggered an asthmatic-type lung response. It is not normal for a cough to linger for weeks.
A persistent fever:
If your child’s fever won’t go away after his nose and cough clear, this could indicate an ear infection.
A sinus infection:
If your toddler has chronic nasal discharge, headaches and thick mucus, it is possible for him to have a sinus infection. The sinuses are small in toddlers but can still get infected.
This time of year, it’s not a matter of if your baby gets sick, but when. Your baby getting a cold is normal. You haven’t done anything wrong. Do what you can at home and when in doubt, or if symptoms aren’t subsiding, call your pediatrician.