It is not pleasant to watch your baby suffering from colds, but luckily there’s so much you can do to help your child through it!
The common cold is indeed very common and your baby will usually catch 8 colds in the first year alone. And it will not get any better for the first 2 years of day-care or nursery.
Fortunately, colds are harmless so you can sleep safely at night – if the cold’s unpleasant symptoms don’t intend to keep your baby awake.
Why do they catch colds?
Colds are a virus infection in the mouth, nose or throat, and babies get a lot of them because their immune system is not yet fully developed.
This means that for each cold your baby gets, the immune system will become stronger because it forms antibodies and makes your baby immune to that particular virus.
Colds spread when someone sneezes or coughs and thereby injects viruses into the air that end up in another person’s airways.
The cold virus can also be spread via hand contact. Therefore, it is important to wash your hands every time you have coughed or brushed your nose and teach your child about good hand hygiene.
Read also: Our great guide to fevers
How does cold affect small children
If your child is cold, you may notice some of the following symptoms:
- Red eyes
- Sore throat
- Running nose
- Blocked nose
- Reduced appetite
- Irritation and restlessness
- Raised lymph nodes (in the armpits, throat and head)
Breastfeeding and colds
If your baby has a clogged up nose, it may be difficult for him to breathe during nursing.
Babies can not blow their own nose, but you can help your baby with a nasal suction, which gently removes the mucus.
Sleep and cold
Some babies are very irritated by a clogged nose or cough and therefore wake up repeatedly during the night.
Prepare to wake up during the night to clean their nose and comfort your little one. Sometimes this can mean sleeping with one eye open. Stock up on caffeinated drinks too!
How can you help your child?
A cold fortunately disappears on its own, but you can do a lot to make life easier for your child while it lingers.
1 # Lots of rest
Your child’s body can better fight diseases when it has plenty of peace and rest.
2 # Give plenty of food and drink
If you are nursing, offer your child the breast more often than usual. If your child takes a bottle, then offer water too. It is most important that your child does not get dehydrated.
Often, a baby who has yet to learn how to blow their nose or breathe through their mouth finds it difficult to breathe when sleeping and eating, which keeps us parents up with worry. The baby uses a lot of effort to eat or nurse and will therefore eat less but more often, so do not worry if that is the case.
Your toddler however may become extremely irritable and picky. Just offer them whatever they want if that is the case on the worst days, as long as they have something.
3 # Blow their nose
Help your child with his clogged nose, either by means of a nasal suction or by blowing his nose. Use salted water before you attempt to do so.
4 # Reduce fever
If your child has a high fever, you can decide with your doctor if your child should have Calpol or Neurofen, whichever medication you prefer. Always follow dosage instructions.
You should in fact always remember to weigh your baby before calculating how much they can get.
But remember that a fever is not always your enemy, but works to make sure the bacteria can’t survive. So undressing your baby to nappy and a vest is preferable as long as the fever does not get out of hand.
5 # Steam can loosen your child’s mucus
Try to sit in a bathroom full of steam for a few minutes allowing the hot water to run. Keep your child close to the water, whilst making sure they cannot reach.
6 # Only give medicines after consulting your doctor
You should never give your baby any of the shopping options that you use to ease a cold with.
They should never be given to children unless the doctor has explicitly recommended it.
7 # Salt water spray
A saltwater spray from the pharmacy can help the mucous membranes of the nose to contract so that the child is better able to breathe.
TIP: Alternatively make your own with one spoon of salt in a cup of luke-warm water.
It’s smart to give it 5 minutes before the baby is going to have food or sleep. Salt water is a natural part of the body, so you can safely use it before each meal.
“Something suggests that breast milk has the same effect on the mucous membrane as saline, so one drop of breast milk in each nostrils will have the same beneficial effect.” Source: Politics Baby Booklet. This was what they used to do in the good old days.
8 # Books under the bed
It is easier to breathe in an upright position than whilst laying down, so a few books under the head end of the child’s bed will help them breathe through the night.
Your child may also want to sleep outside as long as they do not have a fever. The cool air and any light freezing temperatures dry the nasal mucous, so it is more comfortable for the child to sleep outside, provided it is safe and they are wrapped well. Contrary to the believe that closing all windows and not allowing a single breeze into the baby’s room, it is actually more beneficial to open the windows, get rid of the bacteria circulating in the room, and the stuffy air that clogs up the nose even more!
When should you call the doctor?
If your baby is under 3 months old, you should always visit your own doctor and have him examined.
At 3 months you should go to the doctor if:
- The cold has not improved after 4 days
- If your child is under 6 months and the fever is higher than 39 degrees
- Your child is having breathing problems
- The cough will not go away
- Your little one pulls at his ear and seems irritable. It may be a sign of an ear infection
- Your baby coughs green, yellow or brown mucus, or it runs from the nose.
- Your child gets fever cramps
Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to prevent colds in children under 1 year because your child receives your antibodies through your milk.
It is not a guarantee that your baby will not get ill, but it will give your child better protection than a bottle of milk.
TIP: An old wive’s tale says to wash your finger and collect some spit from your baby’s mouth, then – wait for it – put your finger on your eye so the spit goes inside. This way you will catch whatever they have, and since your immune system is a lot stronger you will quickly pass the antibodies through your breast milk and fight off the cold for your baby easy! How many times do you actually hear parents say “I would take their cold off them in a heart beat”? Well, here is your chance. It has been tried and tested and really does work!
Otherwise, general good advice applies:
- Wash your hands frequently and ask everyone who is coming to wash hands.
- Wash hands when you arrive at the nursery or go out
- Avoid smoke from cigarettes as it increases the risk of your child catching a cold