Common Cold In Babies

1 What is Common Cold in Babies?

A common cold (in babies) is a viral infection that affects your baby's respiratory organs, namely nose and throat.

It is characterized by stuffy and runny nose. Babies are at greater risk of acquiring common cold since they often come in contact with other older children who don't practice good hygiene practices like frequent hand washing.

In addition, the baby’s immune system is still developing and is prone to many common infections. It’s common for a baby to have up to seven colds before s/he reaches one.

Treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms and preventing complications. Increasing fluid intake and keeping the air humid are some simple treatment approaches.

If you have a very young infant who develops common cold, visit your baby’s doctor immediately as it can lead to croup and pneumonia.

2 Symptoms

A baby has an immature immune systema and in a normal case, the signs and symptoms of common cold in babies go away within two weeks.

If you have a baby is younger than 2 to 3 months, who develops common cold, visit the doctor immediately as they are more prone to develop

Even a simple common cold can cause problems with nursing care and feeding from a bottle. As your baby gradually becomes more mature, you may ask your doctor if visiting a doctor or treating at home is more appropriate.

Common colds are common but you need to exercise special precautions. If your baby is 3 months or older, signs that should concern you include:

  • Reduced passage of urine
  • Fever 100.4 F (38 C)
  • Abnormal behavior that could indicate ear pain
  • Reddening of eyes and yellow or greenish eye discharge
  • Breathing problems
  • Continuous cough
  • Thick, green discharge from nose for several days

Warning signs that require immediate medical attention include:

  • Baby not taking fluids
  • Coughing is so difficult that it may cause vomiting or changes in skin color
  • Blood in sputum
  • Breathing problems
  • Bluish lips and mouth

3 Causes

More than 100 viruses cause common cold in babies, of which highly contagious rhinovirus and coronavirus constitute the majority of occurrences.

Your baby develops immunity against a virus once the infection is over. However, a large number of virus makes it possible for your baby to have several colds annually and many throughout his or her lifetime.

In addition, immunity against certain viruses is short lived. The virus can enter your baby's body through his or her mouth or nose.

The virus can transfer to your baby through:

Infected air

The virus can be spread into the air when an affected person coughs, sneezes or talks.

Direct contact

A touch by a hand laden with virus can transfer it to your baby who may be infected while touching his or her own eyes, nose or mouth.

Contaminated surfaces

Your baby may also acquire virus while touching a contaminated surface like a toy.

4 Making a Diagnosis

If your baby develops signs of common cold, visit your baby's pediatrician or family doctor to receive a diagnosis.

How to prepare yourself for the visit

Getting prepared for the visit can optimize the therapy and help make the visit more fruitful. List out all the signs in your baby.

Write down your key medical information. List out your child’s current medications. Inform the doctor about exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke, if any.

Make a list of the questions to ask your doctor

Some typical questions can be:

  • What could be the most probable cause of my baby's condition?
  • What tests does my baby need?
  • Are any restrictions necessary for my baby?
  • Can suggest any safe over-the-counter medications?

What your doctor wants to know

A clear talk with your doctor can optimize the therapy and improve the outcomes. Prepare yourself to answer some essential questions from your doctor. Your doctor might ask you typical questions like:

  • When did the signs appear in your baby and how severe are they?
  • Do these signs occur continuously or occasionally?
  • Does anything improve or aggravate them?
  • Is bottle feeding or nursing affected by the nasal congestion?
  • Has your baby been exposed to cigarette smoke?
  • Is there a fever? If so, which grade?
  • Is your baby timely vaccinated?
  • Has an antibiotic been recently used?

What you can do in the meantime

Here are some tips to comfort your baby while waiting for the appointment:

  • Humidify the air in your home
  • Use saline and a suction bulb to facilitate removal of mucus from your child's nose.

5 Treatment

Common cold in babies is a viral infection for which no treatment has yet been discovered.

Remember antibiotics are useless in common cold. You may take simple measures to comfort your baby. These include:

  • Humidifying the air in your home
  • Using saline and a suction bulb to facilitate removal of mucus from your child's nose.

If you notice signs in your baby, younger than 3 months, call your doctor.

Using over-the-counter (OTC) medications for infants is generally not recommended. Follow your doctor’s directions when using any medication in your infant.

Medications to reduce fever

You may use medications to reduce fever, if any. Acetaminophen is generally safe, except for children below 3 months.

Follow the dosing guidelines or call your doctor if you have any questions about dosing for your baby. Ibuprofen is also safe for a baby 6 months or older.

These medications should be avoided if your baby is dehydrated or vomiting continuously. Another common drug for fever is aspirin, which is approved for use in children older than age 2.

But NEVER USE aspirin in children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms. Aspirin can cause life-threatening condition in them, called Reye's syndrome. In general, use of aspirin for cold or flu is discouraged.

Medications for cough and cold

These should be avoided. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warning against the use of over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines in children younger than age 2.

6 Prevention

Here are some tips to prevent common cold in your baby:

  • Don’t let your baby come in contact with an affected person. Take special care if you have a newborn at your home. Though not always possible, you can give public transportation and public gatherings with your newborn a miss.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water before feeding or caring for your baby. You may also use alcohol-containing hand wipes or gels.
  • Properly disinfect your baby's toys and pacifiers.
  • Use a tissue while coughing or sneezing, or close mouth with a “cup” of hands.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

There are different ways to adapt your baby's lifestyle in coping with common cold.

Most of the times, common cold can be managed at home especially if your baby is older. You may follow these tips:

Offer plenty of fluids

Continue giving normal amount of fluids to your baby to avoid dehydration. If your baby is on breast milk, continue as breast milk contains substances that increase your baby’s immunity against the virus.

Loosen the mucus

Saline nose drops may be used to facilitate the removal of mucus from your baby’s nose. Over-the-counter drops are available in your local pharmacy.

Clear nasal passage

You can use a bulb syringe to pull up mucus from the nasal passages. Ask your doctor if it’s safe for your baby. Strictly follow your doctor’s directions.

Humidify the air

Humidify the air in your baby’s room with a humidifier. Take caution not to wet your baby’s beddings. Keep your humidifier mold-free by changing water daily and following other cleaning guidelines. A steamy bath before bedtime may be another option.

8 Risk and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with common cold in babies.


  • Naive immune systems: Immune cells in infants have yet to be exposed to common cold viruses making them more vulnerable to attack by these viruses.
  • Transmission from other children: It is natural for infants to spend lots of time with other children, who may transmit the virus while coughing, sneezing or touching.
  • Season: Common cold is more common in fall and winter. It is probably due to staying indoors for a long time.


If not treated in time, common cold can lead to other respiratory tract infections in baby such as pneumonia.