Baby's First Cold & Flu Season

When Do You Need to Call Your Doctor?

  • If your baby is listless, not reacting to you, has poor color, or if you just feel something isn't right.
  • If the cough is worsening or your child is having difficulty breathing.
  • If your baby is crying much more than usual, patting or pulling on the ear, or refusing nursing or drinking from a bottle.
  • If you suspect your infant has the flu, especially if he or she has a high fever and cough which persists for more than three days. NOTE: Any infant under 3 months with a fever (rectal temperature of 100.8 or greater) must be seen.
  • If your older child has a high fever for more than five days, a worsening cough (with or without chest pain), a headache for more than five days, or a headache that is getting worse or is accompanied by a stiff neck.

Q. My toddler is miserable when sick. Is there an antidote to this?

A. If only such an elixir existed, but the notion that echinacea, vitamin C, or zinc can wipe away the sniffles is no truer than the bedtime stories you read to your kids. In fact, studies of adults and children have found that vitamin C doesn't prevent or treat the common cold even when taken at the onset of symptoms. Nor does echinacea lessen the duration or severity of a cold. Even the claim that zinc can reduce cold symptoms doesn't stand up in controlled studies.

So when a friend says that she swears by one of these alternative remedies, trust that scientific research has so far shown otherwise. And if you're still contemplating giving your child these supplements and wonder what harm can they do, think again. Possible adverse side effects: nasal applications of zinc might affect one's sense of smell; concentrated vitamin C can upset the stomach and lead to diarrhea; and echinacea causes rashes in some kids.

Mary Ann LoFrumento, MD, is an attending physician at Goryeb Children's Hospital, in Morristown, New Jersey, and is the founder of

Originally published in American Baby magazine.

The information is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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