A baby in their parent's arms.

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 Baby inherited some elements of their mother’s immune system prior to birth, it takes time for any baby to build up enough antibodies to fight off seasonal viruses. \

How to handle your baby’s first cold

Your baby will most likely get many viruses during the years to come – 10 or more per year! – especially if they are attending daycare. So when it comes to Baby and the common cold, the question here is not “if,” it’s “when?”

How will I know if Baby is catching a cold?

There are several common cold symptoms to watch for if you’re worried about Baby getting sick. They will probably be fussier than normal, but that can be a hard symptom to pin down. If the change in 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 Baby has officially contracted their first infant cold. If 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, their symptoms will become more pronounced, particularly the flow of clear, thin mucus. By day 4, Baby should start to show some signs of recuperation such as a renewed appetite and slightly thicker and yellowing mucus. However, 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 Baby feel better?

Being sick for the first time is a scary experience, so you’ll want to make Baby as comfortable as possible for the duration of the virus. You could consider adding a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer to their room. This will prevent the excess mucus in their nose from drying out and irritating their nasal passages. Saline nasal spray or drops can also help to clear out babies’ nasal passages. If Baby‘s nose gets stuffed up, a suction bulb can help clear out their nostrils. You shouldn’t give a baby under three months old either Tylenol or ibuprofen (which is used in Advil and Motrin) unless  specifically recommended to do so 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 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. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold-in-babies/home/ovc-20204277.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Sick baby? When to seek medical attention.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, September 20 2106. Retrieved June 28 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/art-20047793.
  • “Caring for Your Child’s Cold or Flu.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, April 20 2017. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/medication-safety/Pages/How-to-Manage-Colds-and-Flu.aspx.

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