How to Treat an Infant Cold

Watching your baby suffer through a cold can be both nerve-wracking and heart-wrenching, especially if your child demonstrates obvious signs of discomfort. Infants under the age of three months should see a doctor as soon as they show signs of illness. However, babies older than three months can wait as long as their symptoms do not get too severe. Focus on easing the symptoms of the cold using safe home remedies and avoid medication. If your baby gets significantly worse or does not improve within a week, contact a doctor.


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    Use a combination of saline drops and suction to remove excess mucus. Tip your infant's head back and squeeze drops of an over-the-counter saline solution into the nostrils. Allow a few minutes to pass before suctioning the loosened mucus out with a rubber bulb syringe.
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    Apply petroleum jelly to your baby's nose. Rub a thin coating of petroleum jelly on the outside of your baby's nose to reduce irritation, focusing on areas that look red and sore.
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    Run a humidifier. A humidifier or cool-mist vaporizer sends moisture out into the room, which can reduce your baby's nasal inflammation and relieve stuffiness. Placing a humidifier in your sick infant's room may make it easier for him or her to fall asleep.
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    Sit with your baby in a steamy bathroom. Take your baby with you into the bathroom, close the door, and run the hot water for 15 minutes or so. The steam will moisten the air and relieve stuffiness.
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    Make sure your baby gets plenty of rest. The human body uses a lot of energy in fighting off infection. Keep your baby out of stressful situations and encourage calm forms of play instead of active play.
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    Use a vapor rub if your infant is older than three months. "Baby safe" vapor rubs made of petrolatum, oils, and eucalyptus create a cooling sensation in the nose, which allows cold sufferers to feel as though they are breathing better. Massage the product into your infant's chest, neck, and back, but do not put it on any broken skin or on the face.
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    Use fever-reducing medication. Acetaminophen is safe for children three months and up, and ibuprofen is safe for kids six months and up. Look for over-the-counter medication that can be given in small doses and carefully obey the instructions. If you have any question about the dose your infant can receive, contact your doctor.[1]
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    Avoid giving your infant over-the-counter cough and cold medicine. The FDA strongly advises against over-the-counter cold medicine for children younger than two years old, and many manufacturers have stopped making these products for children under the age of four. These medications may ease symptoms but come with a risk of severe side effects, including rapid heart rate and convulsions.[2]
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    Give your baby extra fluids. Drinking extra fluids prevents dehydration and thins out nasal secretions. For babies six months or older, try plain water, fruit juices, and ice pops. For children less than six months, stick with breast milk or formula.
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    Offer your infant warm liquids. If he or she is six months or older, your infant can have chicken soup, warm chamomile tea, and warmed apple juice. Warm drinks can relieve sore throats, congestion, aches, and fatigue.
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    Do not try honey before your child's first birthday. Warm honey is an effective remedy for sore throats and can tame a cough, but in babies below the age of one year, it can cause an illness known as infant botulism. [3]


  • Reduce exposure to germs by instructing family and friends to wash their hands before picking up your baby. Request that sick children and adults postpone their visits until after they recover and are no longer contagious.


  • Never give your baby aspirin. When given to individuals 18 months old or younger, aspirin can trigger a rare condition known as Reye's syndrome. This condition can prove fatal.
  • If your baby has a worsening cough, rapid breathing, wheezing, or gasping, seek medical attention immediately. These symptoms could be indicative of pneumonia or respiratory syncytial virus.
  • Call your doctor your baby starts rubbing at his or her ear or cries when sucking during a feeding. These symptoms could be caused by an ear infection.
  • If your baby's eyes look particularly goopy or teary, let your doctor know. These eye troubles could be indicative of pinkeye.
  • Call your doctor if your baby has a fever that lasts more than two days, displays extreme fussiness, or demonstratives a significant change in sleep or feeding habits. If he or she takes a turn for the worse after five to seven days, or if your baby's symptoms last for two weeks or longer, you should also call the doctor.

Things You'll Need

  • Saline drops
  • Rubber bulb syringe
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Humidifier
  • Vapor rub
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Fluids

Article Info

Categories: Childhood Health | Colds and Viruses