Winter Cold Survival Guide

Don't look now, but there are more than 200 viruses hanging out on hands, doorknobs, and toys that can give your child a cold. That's why babies and toddlers -- notorious for putting everything into their mouths -- and school-age kids, who spend their days in germ-packed classrooms, often sniffle and cough all winter long. We've got ways to protect your child at any age.

Baby Sniffles

Your antibodies help protect your baby for up to six months after birth, but little ones can still catch colds. Here's what you need to know.

  • Your baby may be hit hard. Until her immune system is more fully developed and she's been exposed to different viruses, her symptoms may be more severe than those in older kids, says Josh Petrikin, MD, a pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota.
  • His tummy can act up. Don't be surprised if your baby vomits or has diarrhea. Excess mucus production can irritate his stomach and make his stools looser.
  • She may not have a runny nose. Because an infant's nasal passages are so small, even a little inflammation can cause mucus to become trapped in the back of her nose.
  • Breathing gets harder. Congestion can restrict your baby's tiny airways, making it more difficult for him to breathe. This is especially true if his cold symptoms are caused by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Like a cold, RSV can bring on fever, a cough, and stuffiness, but after a couple of days, the cough gets worse and breathing sounds rapid and distressed, explains Gail Demmler, MD, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston. RSV can lead to bronchiolitis -- infection and inflammation of the lower airways. In severe cases, your child may even need to be hospitalized.
  • Your doctor needs to know. You should definitely phone him if your baby is under 3 months of age and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, or is between 3 and 6 months and has a reading of 102 degrees or higher. Also call if your little one has problems breathing (watch for wheezing, flared nostrils, or a sucking in of the chest), if she has a fever that lasts longer than 12 hours or other symptoms that last longer than a week, if she spikes a fever a few days into the cold, if she is feeding poorly, or if her behavior is unusual and you're worried.

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