Having a cold is a pretty miserable experience, but for a baby it is a lot worse. Babies can’t tell you when they are feeling poorly. All they can do is cry in the hope that you are able to work out what they need. As an adult, you will be familiar with the symptoms of a cold: sore throat, cough, blocked nose, aches and pains. When a cold strikes, you are likely to spend a few days resting, taking a few cold remedies, and generally feeling sorry for yourself.
Photo by Ross Burton
In order to feel better, your baby will need your help in alleviating his symptoms. He can’t take flu-plus capsules or pour a nip of whiskey into his hot lemon. So what can you do to ensure your baby copes well with the symptoms of a cold?
Make Sure Baby Stays Hydrated
Dehydration is a killer. Unfortunately, when we are suffering from an awful cold, we tend to lose a lot of fluid as a result of a runny nose and coughing up phlegm. Babies are very susceptible to the effects of dehydration, so you need to make sure they are drinking enough. Babies 4 months or younger can only have breast or bottle milk, but between 4 and 6 months old, you can also give him water, and if he is more than 6 months old, he can have some watered down juice.
You will probably find that your baby wants to feed more often when he has a cold, more for the comfort factor than hunger. If this is the case, encourage him, as it will help to keep him hydrated. If he is struggling to feed because his nose is blocked, try using a nasal aspirator to clear the excess mucous.
Use a Humidifier
Babies can’t blow their nose if it’s blocked; they also struggle to breathe through their mouth when they are very young, so a blocked nose can be a major problem at bedtime, or indeed any other time. If your baby’s nose blocks up as soon as he lies down in his cot, try plugging in a humidifier in his bedroom to create a moist environment. This will help him breathe easier.
Easy Baby’s Congestion
Another way of helping him to breathe if his nose is really blocked is to take him into the bathroom and run the shower or bath to create lots of steam. This should help to loosen the mucous in his nose and on his chest. Placing a few drops of eucalyptus oil or similar in the humidifier will also help your baby to breath a bit easier.
Treat the Symptoms of Fever
If your baby has a fever and he is aged 3 months or older, you can give him some infant paracetamol and bathe him in tepid water to bring his temperature down. If he is younger than 3 months, ask your doctor for advice immediately.
Signs of fever are flushed cheeks and clammy skin. If you are not sure whether your baby has a high temperature, use a digital thermometer, as these are generally more accurate than skin thermometers.
When to Call the Doctor
Most babies recover from a cold with no ill effects, but if your baby is struggling to feed or he has a very high temperature, call your doctor straight away.