Colds and upper respiratory infections are common especially for very young children. It is particularly common in the first two years of life, and a young child may get eight to ten colds during this period. More than 100 viruses cause common colds, and babies are susceptible because of their immature immune systems.
A baby can get the virus from the air, contaminated objects and through contact from a sick individual. Other children, who spend time with babies, may even be carriers of the virus, especially if they don’t regularly practice proper hand washing. Some viruses can live on surfaces for two hours or even longer. When these viruses enter the body, these can multiply and grow thereby causing an infection.
A baby with a cold may usually have either a congested or a runny nose. Initially, a baby with a runny nose usually has a clear nasal discharge. After some time, the discharge can then turn to shades of yellow or green. A baby may also show other symptoms like sneezing, coughing, low-grade fever, irritability, decreased appetite, and difficulty sleeping.
Although a common cold can usually resolve in 7 to 10 days, there is still a need to contact your doctor, especially if your baby is 3 months old or younger. This is essential because for this age group, a common cold can quickly develop into something more serious like pneumonia, bronchiolitis or croup.
For children older than 3 months, parents need to be wary of signs that need to be reported to the doctor. Call your doctor if your baby has high-grade fever, or if he has a temperature higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Nasal discharge that lasts longer than ten to fourteen days, and cough that lasts more than a week, also needs to be reported. You also need to immediately contact your doctor for symptoms like difficulty in breathing, or if you notice that your baby’s nails and mouth suddenly turned blue.
Since common colds are caused by a virus, antibiotic treatment is not at all necessary. Parents should never give any medication to a child without a doctor’s prescription. Many over the counter medications (OTC) for coughs and colds may only cause serious side-effects in babies and young children. In fact, the FDA strongly recommends that these medications should not be used for children younger than 2 years old.
Although treatment options may be limited, there are ways that can be done, so that babies with colds feel more comfortable. Nasal congestion will always be a problem, and it may help if you suction your baby’s nose. Squeeze the bulb before you insert the tip into one of your baby’s nostril, then release the bulb slowly. You may then release the contents of the bulb in a tissue. You may clear your baby’s nose before each feeding, or as necessary. It is also important that you regularly clean the bulb with soap and water.
Some doctors may recommend the use of saline nose drops, and it is vital that you follow your doctor’s recommendations. Do not attempt to use nose drops containing medications because excessive amounts can be absorbed. Make sure that your baby is still nursing, or taking in the usual amount of fluids. You may also use a cool mist humidifier to liquefy your baby’s secretions. Make sure that you clean it properly so that bacterial or mold growth can be prevented. Avoid using hot water vaporizers because these can cause scalds or burns.
While colds may usually just run its course, its symptoms can be disturbing in children. Avoid taking your baby to crowded places, and do not allow contact with anyone who’s sick. Teach your older kids proper hand washing, and other healthy habits to help prevent the spread of microorganisms. These practices don’t really take much time and effort, but these are time-tested ways in keeping many unwanted microorganisms away.