Baby's first cold

Healthcare   |   Age: 9 weeks 1 day

Baby's first cold

You know the feeling: the scratchy throat, soreness behind the eyes, and that overwhelming physical urge to disappear into a pile of fleece blankets and watch Netflix all day. Colds happen to all of us, and babies are especially vulnerable. While your baby inherited some elements of her mother's immune system prior to birth, it takes time for any baby to build up enough antibodies to fight off seasonal viruses. Your baby will most likely get many viruses during the years to come - 10 or more per year! - especially if she is attending daycare. So when it comes to your baby and the common cold, the question here is not “if,” it’s “when?”

How will I know if your baby is catching a cold?

There are several common cold symptoms to watch for if you’re worried about your baby getting sick. She will probably be fussier than normal, but that can be a hard symptom to pin down. If the change in your baby's behavior is accompanied by a resistance to food, a runny nose, or even a slight temperature rise (below 100.4 degrees F, or 38 C), odds are that your baby has officially contracted her first infant cold. If your baby seems congested for longer than the duration of a cold, or starts to have colds often, it could be a sign of reflux. However, if your child is under 3 months of age and develops a fever (100.4 degrees F or 38 C or more) you should call a pediatrician immediately or go to the emergency department, as this could signify a serious infection.

How does the common baby cold run its course?

During the first 3 days, her symptoms will become more pronounced, particularly the flow of clear, thin mucus. By day 4, your baby should start to show some signs of recuperation such as a renewed appetite and slightly thicker and yellowing mucus. However, your baby may develop a cough, which might make sleeping difficult. This will gradually improve itself too, but altogether, it can take as long as a week or more for babies to completely shake their cold symptoms.

How can I help your baby feel better?

Being sick for the first time is a scary experience, so you’ll want to make your baby as comfortable as possible for the duration of the virus. You could consider adding a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer to her room. This will prevent the excess mucus in her nose from drying out and irritating her nasal passages. Saline nasal spray or drops can also help to clear out babies’ nasal passages. If your baby's nose gets stuffed up, a suction bulb can help clear out her nostrils. Babies under 3 months old should never be given infant Tylenol, or ibuprofen, which is used in Advil and Motrin, unless it is specifically recommended by a pediatrician.

The bottom line

The first cold can be a scary experience, but it’s important to remember that it’s completely normal, and your baby will get over it soon. It can be difficult as a parent to see your child sick, but it’s all a part of life.

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Common cold in babies.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, May 20 2016. Retrieved June 28 2017.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Sick baby? When to seek medical attention.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, September 20 2106. Retrieved June 28 2017.
  • “Caring for Your Child’s Cold or Flu.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, April 20 2017.

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