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Colds are contagious infections of the upper airways most often caused by a virus. Colds are very common in young children, with most suffering around 10 colds in their first two years of life.

There are over 100 different types of virus responsible for the common cold. Colds are spread through the air, or by coming into contact with the nose, mouth or throat secretions of an infected person. In babies most colds occur when the baby is touched by someone who has not washed their hands. Exposure to cold temperatures does not in itself cause the common cold. The common cold is annoying to a baby but usually clears up without any serious complications. Breastfeeding usually offers protection against the cold in the first couple of months.

Signs and symptoms

  • Mild, persistent cough
  • Loss of appetite, refusing breast or bottle feeds
  • Runny nose and sneezing

Fever is NOT usually associated with the common cold. Presence of a fever is more likely to be related to influenza or another bacterial infection. Contact your Doctor if your baby develops a fever.

Treatment options

  • If your baby is less than three months old, or the cold persists for longer than one week, call your Doctor.
  • Antibiotics are not used as these types of drugs are not effective against viral infections.
  • If a fever develops, call your Doctor.
  • If you are breastfeeding, continue as normal.
  • Disinfect all toys and household surfaces daily.
  • Anyone coming into contact with the baby should wash their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap.
  • People with colds should be kept away from the baby until their symptoms have gone.
  • Do not give any medications to a baby unless your Doctor or Pharmacist has recommended them.
  • Saline nose drops may make it easier for your baby to breathe, especially during feeding.
  • A steam humidifier can keep the airways moist and reduce secretions.

Cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under six years of age. Cough and cold medicines should only be given to children aged six to 11 years on the advice of a Doctor, Pharmacist or Nurse Practitioner. There are potential risks associated with these products for children. There are no proven benefits in using cough and cold medicines in children.

Ask Calanna

  • Ask your Pharmacist for advice.
  • Small frequent feeds might be better.
  • Give paracetamol or ibuprofen in a mixture form to help relieve the symptoms. Remember, do not give aspirin to children under 16 years because of possible side effects.
  • A chestrub suitable for a baby’s delicate skin may help with breathing difficulties.
  • A vaporiser in the same room as the baby may help ease some cold symptoms.
  • Inform other people in the household to always wash the hands and use a disinfectant on areas where the virus might be living e.g., a telephone, to help stop the spread of a cold. Remember that prevention is the key.
  • If dietary intake is inadequate nutritional supplements may assist. Vitamin C, children’s garlic and child echinacea are available in most pharmacies.

Aspirin should not be given to children under 16 years of age unless specified by a Doctor.

DISCLAIMER: This information is an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, nurse or naturopath before following any medical regimen to see whether it is safe and effective for you.