Colds in infants AKA Upper Respiratory Infection
Colds are very common in the population and in young babies can cause symptoms such as congestion, runny nose and cough. The first few colds can seem very bad because the baby has still not developed strong enough immunity against it. Also, babies cannot blow their noses or make themselves cough so often the mucus builds up and then by the time they do cough it can sound awful. Most of the time however, the noises that you hear are what we call transmitted upper airway sounds (it is actually in the back of the nose and throat but because the lungs are hollow, it feels like it’s in the chest). Unfortunately, there are no approved cough/cold medications for young infants. The symptoms can be somewhat alleviated by the following:
Saline nasal spray occasionally followed by suction. The spray may be used as often as needed and spray is more effective than drops. Use the bulb suction only if very stuffy since it is uncomfortable and sometimes can even cause the nose to bleed.
Cool mist humidifier or vaporizer. It is ok to put a small amount of the Vicks solution.
Keep the baby upright so that gravity helps the congestion drain down (may use a car seat or infant swing etc…).
In babies 4 months and old you can try infant chest rub (such as Baby Vicks) it must say infant not the regular ones that adult use since the chemicals in those can be harmful they typically have a pink top. Put a small amount on one spot first to ensure no allergic reaction. Though it is fine to put chest rub on the feet this is more of an old wives tale and does not necessarily have to go on the feet.
For a dry cracked nose that may cause some bleeding use Neosporin or Vaseline to the outer part of the nostrils.
- Any fever could indicate more serious illness. A fever is a temperature off 100.4 or greater. If the child is under 2 months of age must be taken to the Emergency Room.
- Persistent Fast breathing. Young babies normally breathe faster if you are in doubt please call us.
- Retractions- this means the baby/child is using his/her rib muscles to breathe. They may also be deep belly breathing. This could indicate an emergency especially if it lasts longer than 15 minutes.
Unfortunately in babies and young children colds may last 7-14 days. Typically if the symptoms are there for more than 7 days we want to see the child to make sure there are no other conditions going on or possibly a secondary bacterial infection. At any time if you feel your child looks sick or something does not seem right it is always better to have him/her seen.