Your Guide to Baby Colds

The average cold can last up to 10 days—that's a long time of not feeling well for a baby! Here's how to survive and make your little one feel better, too.

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Keep Them Hydrated

No matter your baby's age, it's essential to keep him well-hydrated when battling a cold. "A baby will usually want to nurse or take a bottle more frequently when sick because he needs that comfort," says Dr. William Sears, Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against giving juice to infants under 1, and although you could give a small amount of water to babies who are eating solids, it’s not necessary. Breast milk or formula should be all the fluid they need to keep hydrated.

Treat a Fever

Acetaminophen may be used to treat a fever if your baby is 4 months old or older, says Rhya Strifling, M.D., a mom and pediatrician at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. Just be sure to consult your pharmacist or pediatrician about the correct dosage and make sure you are using the dosing for infant drops and not child drops. And if your baby is 3 months old or younger and has a fever, you should contact your pediatrician immediately.

Use a "Nose Hose"

Even adults have a hard time sleeping with a stuffy nose -- now imagine you're a baby who can't even blow your nose for relief! Dr. Sears recommends using a nasal aspirator and saline nasal spray before your baby eats and goes to sleep to clear the nose and to loosen the drainage in the back of the throat. "Babies under 1 typically don't breathe through their mouths very well, so when the nose is clogged, it is truly uncomfortable for them," Dr. Sears.

Run a Humidifier

A cool mist humidifier in your baby's room during nap time and at night can help with the cough by moistening the dry winter air, says Dr. Strifling. Also, be sure not to have the heat turned up too high, which can worsen Baby's congestion. Instead, she says to keep your home at a comfortable 70-72 degrees in the winter months.

Create a Steam Room

You can help ease your child's congestion by running the hot water in the shower and sitting in the bathroom for about 15 minutes while the steam fills the room, says Dr. Sears. The heat from the steam loosens up the mucus in Baby's nose and chest and relieves the stuffiness.

Skip OTC Treatments

Most over-the-counter cough and cold medicines (aside from acetaminophen and ibuprofen) are not recommended for children under the age of 6 according to the AAP. "Usually antibiotics are not needed, unless the congestion develops into an ear infection or pneumonia," says Dr. Strifling. "If your baby has fever for more than three or four days, or you feel like his symptoms are getting worse rather than better, than it might be time to visit your pediatrician.” Also, don’t use honey for a cough in babies under 1 because of the risk of botulism.

Don’t Prop Baby Up for Sleep

Although it may seem like your little one’s congestion would benefit from sleeping on an incline, Dr. Strifling says it’s not a good idea. “There isn't really a safe way to prop up infants for sleep,” she says. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ new sleep recommendations also advise against letting your baby sleep in the car seat, so put him down on his back in his crib or bassinet to sleep. Because sick babies might need smaller, more frequent feeds, be prepared to get up more often during the night.

Wash Your Hands

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 80 percent of all infectious diseases are transmitted through the hands. "It's crucial that anyone handling the baby keeps their hands clean," Dr. Sears says. "And also remember to clean children's hands with baby wipes -- especially once they start putting everything in their mouths." Also be sure your baby's hands are completely dry to ensure the alcohol from the wipe is not ingested.

Recognizing the Symptoms

If your baby had a clear, runny discharge from his nose that becomes thick and discolored, accompanied by a fever, and if he's doing a lot of crying and pulling and/or hitting his ears, contact your doctor, says Dr. Bud Zukow, co-author of Baby: An Owner's Manual. "You may be looking at your baby's first middle-ear infection," he says. "Always take into consideration how the whole child looks in addition to identifying his symptoms."

    When to Worry: Coughs & Colds

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