It may be called a common cold, but when your baby develops a cold it’s a BIG DEAL. Your baby’s miserable so you’re anxious (and possible sleep deprived) and those days cooped up inside with a grizzly baby can seem never-ending.
The first time your baby has a cold
The first thing you’ll notice is your baby becoming irritable and less able to settle. Other symptoms can include:
- A temperature
- Reddened eyes
- Sore throat
- Stuffy, runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Swollen lymph nodes, under his armpits, on his neck and the back of his head
Often a cold will linger for a little while, usually with a rasping cough which is caused by all that mucus, but the major symptoms should have gone within a week or so.
How you can help your baby
Colds can’t be cured. But there is lots you can do to ease your baby’s discomfort. Your baby may be having trouble breathing through his nose if he’s all stuffed up, so feeding will probably be difficult and he’ll wake up in the night because his nose is stuffy. Expect to be up with your baby, cuddling him, clearing his nose and giving him feeds.
Offer your baby frequent feeds (either breast or bottle). They might be a bit off their milk when they have a cold, so little and often is the way to keep them hydrated (you can also offer water to babies over the age of four months).
Although some babies lose their appetite when they have a cold, others simply find feeding difficult because their noses are stuffed up – they need to be able to breathe.
Babies can’t blow their noses, so you’ll have to help your baby to clear the mucus. You can buy saline drops from your local chemist. Put a couple of drops in each nostril 15 minutes before a feed (which will loosen up the mucus in the sinuses) and then try using a nasal aspirator to suck out some of the snot.
Be warned, there’s a trick to using a nasal aspirator quickly and efficiently and your baby may not enjoy having something stuck in his nose.
Be gentle when you’re using tissues or wipes because your baby’s delicate skin around her nose will be red and sore.
Parents’ suggestions for helping your baby through the sniffles
“Rub a little vapour rub into your baby’s chest and back.” Penny
“I turn on the shower so the bathroom’s steamy and hot, then take my baby in for a few minutes. It seems to loosen his cough and help him breathe more easily.” Barbara
“I rub my daughter’s feet with Vicks Vaporub before bed and then cover them up with socks. She always sleeps better when I do this.” Miranda
“To prevent having to chip off hardened snot around my baby’s sore nose so he can breathe better, I put a tiny bit of vaseline under his nose to stop anything sticking there. It really works.” Flora
“Just dedicate yourself to your baby. All my eight-month-old wants is to be held and fed and she seems to wake so easily the moment I put her down to creep away. I know it seems like you’re undoing all the work you’ve put into getting your baby to sleep through the night, but when they’re ill they just need you - 24/7.” Bernadette
“A couple of drops of Olba oil on the radiator works as a soothing vaporiser. You can do the same with an old piece of muslin or bib, as long as it’s out of your baby’s reach.” Laura
“The NUK nasal decongester is the biz. It sucks up all the snot.” Maggie
“Don’t stress about your baby being off his food. Would you want food being waved in your face when you’re ill? It’s keeping him hydrated that matters. He’ll get his appetite back when he’s feeling better.” Jamie
Baby cold medicine
Absolutely do not give your baby any cold and flu remedies, or decongestants, which are intended for adults, because they include ingredients which are unsafe for young children.
However, you could give them the correct dose of liquid paracetamol (as long as they are older than two months), or liquid ibuprofen (as long as they are older than three months, and weigh over 11lb/5kg).
Both these medicines will help to reduce your baby’s fever. You should see him perk up instantly. A lukewarm face cloth on your baby’s forehead can also help reduce his temperature.
Keep an eye on your baby’s fever
Any baby under three months whose temperature goes above 38°C should be seen by a GP. And babies under six months should be taken to a doctor if their fever goes above 39°C.
If your baby is younger than three months, it’s advisable to take them to the doctor when they become ill, even if you think it’s just a cold. The younger your baby, the less developed their immune system is and that makes them more prone to secondary infection.
If your baby’s cold seemed to be getting better, but then a fever returns, along with any new symptoms (such as listlessness, or pulling at or rubbing their ears - a possible sign of ear infection), take them to your GP.
Not another cold!
Yes, afraid so. It’s possible your baby could have up to eight colds in their first year.
Hundreds of different cold viruses are transmitted through the air as a result of people coughing or sneezing, but also on hands, toys and anything else touched, so that makes it tricky to avoid catching, particularly if your child is in daycare, attending baby groups or has older siblings at school and nursery.
Babies tend to get a lot of colds because their immune systems are still developing and strengthening.
How you can minimise the chance of your baby getting yet another cold
Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to protect your baby’s health. It passes your antibodies 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 baby by trying to keep him away from anyone with a cough or a cold. Or ask them to wash their hands thoroughly before holding your baby or touching his things.
If you or your partner smokes, give it up, and don’t allow anyone else to smoke near your baby. Babies who live with smokers have more colds, and their colds last longer than babies who aren’t exposed to smoke.
The good news is, the older your baby gets, the stronger her immunity and the better your baby will cope with the symptoms of a cold - and she’ll soon be able to tell you what’s wrong, which makes illness so much easier to bear (for everyone!).