Colds are an infection of the nose and throat caused by a virus. They are a type of upper respiratory infection (URI). In addition to the nose and throat, colds can affect your child’s sinuses and ears. A cold can also affect the tube that connects the middle ear and throat, as well as the windpipe, voice box, and airways.
In a young baby, the air passages through the nose and between the ear and throat are small. Mucus and congestion of these small passages during a cold can cause trouble breathing. Most babies also don’t eat well when it’s hard for them to breathe.
Many different viruses can cause colds. The infection spreads when viruses are passed to others by sneezing, coughing, or personal contact. Your baby may have caught the virus from another person or from touching something with the virus on it.
Symptoms may include:
Symptoms usually start 1 to 3 days after exposure to the virus and can last 1 to 2 weeks.
Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. A sample of fluid from the nose may be tested.
Antibiotics can kill bacteria, but not viruses. Colds are caused by a virus, so antibiotic do not help.
You can do nasal rinses to help clear your baby’s air passages and help your child breathe.
Your healthcare provider can show you how this is done.
You can buy saline solution or make your own by mixing 1/2 teaspoon salt with 1 cup of water.
In addition to nasal saline rinses, a humidifier in your child's room may help. Be sure to clean the humidifier every 2 to 3 days.
Do not give a child under age 4 any cough and cold medicines unless specifically instructed to do so by your healthcare provider. Also never give honey to a baby to treat coughing. Honey may cause a serious disease called botulism in children less than 1 year old.
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your child’s healthcare provider. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.