After having your baby, you’re probably wrapping up your precious bundle carefully every time you head out the door.
But despite your best efforts, she may still get sick. The first cold can be scary: It’s probably the first time you’re in charge of someone else’s health. And even though most colds are harmless, the illness can escalate quickly in babies. That’s why it’s important to monitor and treat. But how exactly do you treat a newborn cold? Is there a safe baby cold medicine?
In this post, we’re detailing what you need to know and whether baby cold medicine is a good idea.
Cold Symptoms in Newborns
If your baby hasn’t had a cold yet, you may be wondering if the symptoms are the same as in adults. You should watch for:
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Fever (but too high could be caused by another illness)
- Red eyes
- Reduced appetite or difficultly nursing
- Difficulty sleeping
- Waking up frequently
Unfortunately, cold symptoms can look similar to that of other, more serious illnesses. You may get anxiety when trying to tell the difference. Look at the “When to See a Doctor” section for more details.
Prevent Newborn from Getting Cold
Since it takes time for a baby’s immune system to fully develop, they’re more likely to catch a cold. Although they are less common in newborns because they still have some immunity from the mother, they are still possible.
Although we’ve provided some tips below, it’s impossible to fully prevent a cold and unless it escalates, it’s a normal part of growing up. According to research, some babies can get as many as 10 each year before they turn 2.
Babies can also get colds at any time during the year, even in the summer. With that being said, people tend to get more colds during flu season. There’s a few reasons for this, one being that during the cold weather, she’s probably inside and closer to people more often. This makes transferring germs easier.
Here’s a few quick prevention tips every parent should know:
- Keep your baby away from sick people, if possible
- Wash your hands after sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose
- Wash your hands after using the washroom, before preparing food and before and after changing a diaper
- Use hand sanitizer or wipes when soap and water isn’t available
- Keep surfaces and frequently touched items clean
- Keep baby toys clean
- Fully wash pacifiers that fall on the floor (don’t use your mouth to “clean” it)
Baby Cold Medicine: What’s Safe?
As you probably know, although there’s over-the-counter products, there’s no cure for the common cold. Even for adults, those medicines can help you manage symptoms and make life feel more livable—but they don’t actually solve the problem itself.
Unfortunately, babies can’t have the symptom-relieving benefits those products may provide. Experts say that cough and cold medicine should not be given to children younger than 3 years old. Baby cold medication doesn’t work and can have harmful side effects. The exception here is if it was prescribed by a pediatrician.
Medicated nose drops and sprays may seem harmless, but they also shouldn’t be used on children under 6 years old.
Some parents ask their pediatrician for antibiotics in hopes of clearing out the bad bacteria. Contrary to that thought, colds can’t be cured with antibiotics. The only time your pediatrician would prescribe one, in this case, is if your baby gets an ear infection or pneumonia. They may also recommend medication to reduce a high fever.
Baby Cold Natural Remedies
Given that there’s no safe baby cold medication, what can you do? Although there’s no quick-fix, there’s a few home remedies that your doctor is likely to recommend.
A stuffed or runny nose is often the first sign you recognize when your baby is sick. Unfortunately, it can also be the toughest to deal with. Until your child learns to blow their own nose, it can be a struggle. The Snotty Buddy is a device that suctions out the mucus with less (or no) fuss. It’s quicker and easier (and, frankly, less annoying) to use than a traditional bulb syringe.
Here’s how it works:
- Wash your hands
- Insert the pointed end into your baby’s nose
- Ensure the filter is in place and insert the mouthpiece into your mouth
- Suck on the mouthpiece, using the force to dislodge mucus. You’ll see how much it’s pulling out by looking at the tube.
- Adjust the nose piece as necessary and repeat on the other nostril.
- Wash the Snotty Buddy with warm, soapy water. You can also sterilize the tube with rubbing alcohol.
Get the Snotty Buddy for $9.99
Note: Nasal discharge can be clear or a yellowish, green color. If the color changes between the two over a few days, that’s normal.
For newborns, medicated nasal sprays and drops aren’t recommended. However, there’s an at-home version that is cheaper to make and safer to use. Here’s how:
- 1 cup boiling water
- ¼ tsp. salt
Ensure water is boiled to kill any bacteria. Combine with salt and let cool. Transfer to a clean bottle. Lay your baby down with her head titled upwards and use a dropper to put 1 or 2 drops inside each nostril. Try to keep your baby laying down for about a minute so the drops are absorbed. Turn her on her stomach and use a tissue under her nose to catch any discharge. Then, use a Snotty Buddy to help dislodge any leftover mucus. These drops will stay good for about 3 days.
Cool Mist Humidifier
A cool mist humidifier won’t be a magic fix, but it can help your baby feel more comfortable. Dry air can make congestion worse, so running one could help her feel clearer quicker. Just make sure to clean and dry the humidifier to prevent bacteria and mold.
Comfort may not be considered a home remedy, but it can help a baby feel less sick. Hold your baby close and give her lots of cuddles and hugs. If you can, use a baby carrier when you’re out or around the home. Hold and rock her more frequently than usual. The extra love and attention can go a long way in reducing her illness-induced fussiness.
When to See a Doctor
If your baby is getting many colds, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have a weak immune system worth a doctor’s visit. More likely, it means that they’re being exposed to more germs. In this case, try to minimize her germ exposure using the prevention tips above. However, if her colds are leading to more serious issues, it’s a cause for concern.
If a newborn under 3 months has a cold, call your doctor if:
- She has difficulty breathing (this can be a bigger issue if a newborn has a cold under 3 months because their nose gets blocked easier)
- She isn’t eating or is vomiting
- She has a fever
Babies over 3 months should see a doctor immediately if:
- She’s breathing quickly or having trouble breathing
- She’s coughing so intensely that it’s making her vomit or choke
- Her lips are blue
At any age, you should be on the lookout for other more serious symptoms, such as:
- Dried yellow pus in the eyes (watery discharge is normal)
- Significantly reduced appetite for food or play
- Fussiness that cannot be comforted
- A cold that lasts longer than 10 to 14 days
Baby colds often come hand-in-hand with ear infections. In fact, according to one study, 23% of babies will experience one before they’re 12 months old. If she’s having signs of a middle ear infection, you should see a doctor. This includes:
- High fever (pay close attention to fevers that begin a few days after the start of cold symptoms)
- Drainage from the ear
Summary of Newborn and Baby Cold Medicine
Colds are common in babies and are usually not a cause to see a doctor. However, if their symptoms escalate, you should make an appointment. With that being said, there’s a few steps you can take at home to help clear your baby’s nose and increase her comfort. According to experts, there’s no over-the-counter, safe baby cold medicine for those youngerthan 3 years. The only time you should give your newborn cold medication is if it’s been prescribed or recommended by your doctor.
P.S. When your baby is sick, you’re probably taking her temperature a lot to make sure she’s okay. This near-constant checking can make a baby even fussier. Using a non-contact thermometer is a good way to do health checks and reduce your anxiety without her even knowing. This Non-Contact Smartphone Thermometer plugs into your smartphone with results showing up on the connecting app. Since it’s so tiny, you can bring it anywhere you go.
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