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Mommy's Guide - Taking care of your baby's cold or flu

When Your Baby Coughs and Sneezes | Mommy’s Guide

Young children are susceptible to colds as their immune system is still immature


Everyone gets a few colds or flu in their lifetime, sometimes several times a year. Even so, some parents may become concerned when their child develops sniffles. Are colds caused by cold weather or suffering a wet chill? Is medication the way to go?


7 Facts about Colds & Flu that Parents should know

It’s normal for babies to get a runny nose, fever, or cough every other month

Healthy babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers catch a bout of cold or flu 6 to 8 times a year on average. Some studies show that babies under 2 years may fall sick up to 12 times a year (or about once a month).


This is normal and does not mean that your child has a poor immune system or is sickly.


Contrary to old wives’ tales, colds are not brought on by exposure to cold air, so do not over-swaddle the baby if the weather is fine. This can make his or her body temperature rise.


In cold countries, it is common that flu seasons tend to coincide with cold weather, but they are unrelated. Neither are colds caused by being exposed to cool air, having wet hair, or wearing wet clothes. Instead, it is the baby’s immature immune system that makes her fall sick more easily.


Exposure to germs at an infant care center or unwell siblings can also spread the virus to the little one.




Most colds and flu clear up on their own in 1-2 weeks

Colds and flu are respiratory tract infections. The flu hit harder than a common cold as the symptoms are more intense. Your baby may be more lethargic, eat poorly and have a fever. She may also develop a runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and cough.


Viruses that cause cold and flu typically clear up on their own in 7-10 days and are not considered dangerous for most kids.


Do take your child to the doctor when you notice any of these signs:

  • Fever in a baby 2 months old or younger
  • Fever of 38.9 deg C or 102.02 F (or higher at any age)
  • Ear pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Your child looks pale or blue
  • Excessive crankiness or sleepiness
  • Signs of an infection that isn’t going away, such as fever lasting more than 3 days. Symptoms of thick and dark-colored phlegm
  • Your child is lethargic and becomes increasingly irritable
  • Poor feeding, with signs of dehydration


* Read this article to understand how to do a ear temperature fever detection and temperature measurement – Is 99.6F a Fever?



Antibiotics won’t speed up recovery

Antibiotics can’t help and won’t speed up the recovery process because both flu and the common cold are caused by viruses. They work only on bacteria infections. However, they may be necessary only if the cold becomes complicated by a bacterial infection or pneumonia.


Caution: Do not give your child any leftover or unused antibiotics as it may lead to antibiotic resistance and other side effects.


Consider a flu jab to protect your baby, as the flu tends to make children more miserable than a cold. In some cases, it may lead to dangerous infections like pneumonia.


Breastfeeding also protects against these viruses, as antibodies in breast milk help boost a baby’s immune system and ward off infections.



Skip OTC (over-the-counter) medication and opt for plenty of rest & fluids

Not to worry, your baby needs plenty of rest rather than treatment. That means shelving activities that may over-stimulate her. Do encourage more naps and earlier best rest.


Giving fluids may help loosen phlegm and soothe your baby’s throat, as well as replace any water lost from the body during a fever.


Note: For babies under 6 months of age, “fluids” mean breast milk or formula.

It is not safe to play doctor and give your baby OTC medication like antihistamines, decongestants, and cough syrup. The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) said OTC cough and cold medicines are not effective in children under 6 years old and can have dangerous side effects.


No medication will make your baby’s illness go away faster, but if she has a fever, infant paracetamol can help relieve discomfort. Parents may give babies older than 3 months paracetamol, or ibuprofen to those older than 6 months. It is important to check with your doctor on the correct dosage.


Babies under 3 months old may require a hospital stay if they run a high temperature.



Decongest with a nasal spray

Babies and toddlers have narrow airways which make it harder for them to clear secretions like mucus when they have a cold.


To ease a stuffy nose, you just need a saltwater nasal spray. Use this with nasal decongestant drops to help constrict blood vessels in the nose and reduce mucous production.


Some studies show that applying an infant-friendly vapor rub on the chest of babies (older than 3 months) may help ease symptoms. Use only vapor rubs formulated for babies and not the adult version which may be too strong and can cause a burning sensation on the baby’s skin.



Start by washing your hands to flu-proof your kid

Cold and flu viruses are spread by tiny air droplets, which are released when an infected person coughs or sneezes. They can be spread indirectly when you touch your baby’s nose and mouth with hands that may have come into contact with contaminated surfaces.


So if you are feeling unwell, put on a mask or cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.


Article adapted from All credits to Young Parents magazine, published by SPH Magazines.



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