Distinguishing the difference between a common cold and a more serious illness can be a bit of a challenge when it comes to babies. While the first step to discerning symptoms of a cold for most parents is to check if baby has a fever, this might not always be the most effective. To define symptoms of a common cold for babies, paediatricians will usually focus on checking for signs like the following.
- What does your baby's behaviour tell you? How is your child acting? While it's normal for us all to feel a little lousy when under the weather, if your baby is extremely sleepy or irritable, this is generally not a good sign. If you notice these signs, you may consider asking your paediatrician for advice.
- Pay attention to your baby's breathing. Is it irregular, rapid, and irregular? If you suspect your little one is sick, monitor his breathing. Watch a clock with a second hand and count the number of breaths per 10 seconds. Multiply this number by 6 so that you know how many breaths are taken per minute. It's usually about 50 to 60 breaths per minute for newborns, and 30 to 40 per minute for older babies. If you notice that the triangular shape between your baby's ribs caves in when they breathe, you should inform your doctor right away.
- Babies that have a cold or flu will usually show disinterest in food. If your baby continues poor eating habits for several days, consider calling your doctor for advice.
- Babies younger than 3 months are at a higher risk of more serious problems associated with fever. If your baby is younger than 3 months and has a fever of 38 degrees Celsius or higher, or if any fever lasts for longer than 3 days, you should get help.
- When a baby is sick they may show signs of coughing, cold, and a runny nose. In some instances your baby's eyes might get slightly red and watery. These may also be signs of allergy.
How can I treat my baby's cold?
In most cases a baby's cold will go away on its own. There are several things you can do to help ease any discomfort and speed up the healing process.
- Allow your little one extra sleep, as this will allow the body to heal.
- Encourage your baby to eat more. Extra breast milk or formula will help keep him hydrated and bring down any fever.
- If your baby has a runny nose, gently wipe it for him. Keep in mind that babies have extra sensitive skin and your little one's nose is bound to get sore and rough if the cold is prolonged. In such cases you can use a little petroleum jelly on the outside of the nostrils to reduce irritation.
- Nasal saline drops made specially for babies can help to unblock a blocked nose.
- Vapour run can help your baby breathe easily while resting. Apply it your his chest and back. Avoid putting it on his nostrils as this may restrict breathing.
Do not give your baby any over-the-counter medication for colds and flu unless you are directed to by your paediatrician or a healthcare expert. Children under the age of six are at a higher risk of the negative side effects of certain medications.