How to Handle a Cold in a Young Infant
A cold is a respiratory infection of the nose, throat, and sinus passages. The baby will have increased nasal congestion and perhaps a cough. Protective maternal antibodies are still in a baby’s circulation for the first 4 months of life, and that’s why so many illnesses, bypass a newborn. However sometimes a baby will catch a cold, such as respiratory synctial virus, which is spread by hand contact with someone who has a runny nose or scratchy throat.
Most upper respiratory infections will resolve spontaneously and do not require any treatment. However, if the baby has a deep, moist cough, he/she should be seen by the pediatrician to check that the cold didn’t travel to the baby’s chest.
Older infants (> 3 months) can experience a low grade fever (less than 102F or 38.9C) when they have an upper respiratory infection. It can last for days. If the baby has a high grade fever, (>102), they should be seen by a pediatrician.
Infants less than 2 months: any rectal temperature of 100.5 or more Fahrenheit (38.1 C) is considered a fever. Newborns with any fever must be seen immediately to make sure they don’t have a more serious cause of fever, such as group B strep or urinary tract infection. Even though everyone in the family has a cold and the baby most likely has a self-limited upper respiratory infection, they still should be seen in the emergency room for blood work and other tests. Note: to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, multiply by 1.8 and add 32. To convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, subtract 32 and divide by 1.8
How to treat a cold in young infants :
Nasal congestion will make it harder for the baby to sleep.
Positioning the baby upright helps. This will help the baby handle his/her secretions. Instead of sleeping flat in his/her crib, parents can place a bouncy seat or car seat in crib. Some folded diapers or a baby blanket can be placed in the car seat under the baby’s hips so that he/she is lying at 120-140 degrees (as if in a partially reclined beach chair). Parents can also let the baby sleep in his/her stroller.
A warm compress on the side of the nose will help loosen the mucus. A cool mist humidifier in the room can help loosen secretions.
A nasal aspirator can be used, but it must be cleaned and only placed on the outer nostril, not “into” the nose. If your indoor air is dry, use a humidifier or hang a damp towel near the radiator. Saline can be used in the nose to help loosen secretions.
If the baby is breastfeeding – the mother can eat some extra fruit or take 3 tablets of 250mg Vit C to increase the vitamin C in her milk
Cough and cold remedies are not recommended for young infants because of concern for possible side effects. Decongestants can cause hyperexcitability and antihistamines can cause drowsiness.