Head colds in infants: What every new parent should know

What to do if your baby has a cold

Runny nose and congestion keeping your baby up all night long and crying all day? Your infant is probably experiencing his or her first cold. Infants are much more susceptible to head colds and chest colds. This is because their immune systems are very fragile.  Germs, a change in weather, and contact with other younger children are easy ways for infants to develop a cold quickly. 

Infants are an easy target for the common cold as their immune systems have not had a chance to develop immunity to the many different viruses which causes this respiratory infection. The common cold can enter your infant’s body through their nose or mouth from another’s sneeze or cough, which travels through the air and into your child’s respiratory system. Contact with other babies or young children is another easy way for infants to catch a cold. Many children don’t wash their hands enough and when they come in contact with a baby, their germs are easily passed over. Finally, babies themselves like to touch everything, and then subsequently put their hands in their mouth, transferring germs from dirty surfaces into their body.
There are many symptoms that will indicate your baby may have a head or chest cold.
  • Crying and whining
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Thick nasal discharge (yellow or green)
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Decreased appetite
  • Irritability
In infants, a head cold can develop into croup or pneumonia if not taken care of properly with a visit to the doctor. However, as your child ages and his or her immune system has had time to develop immunity against these viruses, it is not always necessary to visit the doctor.
Your baby’s immune system will need time to take care of itself and rid of the cold on its own - however, there are remedies you can take advantage of to lessen the pain, discomfort, and increase healing time.
Placing a cool mist humidifier in your baby’s room will add moisture into the air, easing coughs, scratchy noses and throats, and congestion.
Saline nose drops
Nose drops not only ease a dry, sore nose, but will soften nasal discharge, making it easier for suctioning.
Break up congestion in your baby’s head and nose with steam from the shower.
Keep the fluids flowing through your child to prevent dehydration and thin mucus
Head elevation
Keep your baby’s head elevated for decongestion and to reduce symptoms.
When to see a doctor
Make sure you make a trip to the doctor if your child is experiencing these symptoms:
  • A higher temperature than 102
  • Ear pain
  • Yellow eye discharge and red eyes
  • An extended cough for more than 1 week
  • Thick, green nasal discharge for more than 2 weeks
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Refusal to eat/nurse
  • Vomiting
  • Change in skin color
What to do next
Since small children and infants tend to have weaker immune systems, you can expect that your baby will get sick at some point. However, not all colds are normal, and if your baby or child is experiencing severe head cold symptoms you should be sure to take him to a doctor right away.

Here are some great resources that you can use to determine what to do if your baby is sick:

"When baby is sick":

"Sick Baby Symptom Guide":

"Sick Baby Survival Tips"

"8 signs your infant is ill":

"Sick babies: 12 symptoms to help you assess when to call the doctor":
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Categories: Head, Cold, Infant Health

Sarah Butler, Amanda Maynes

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