Somewhere between falling leaves and Thanksgiving dinner is the start of what we like to call “sick day season.” The sneezes, sniffles and all-night coughs are the holiday guests we just want to get rid of. If your little one is suffering from a common cold, there are several ways that you can help them feel more comfortable.
Saline Drops: Salt water helps break up some of the mucous that is keeping your little one congested. There are many brands that make saline drops safe for infants. Ask your pharmacist if you have any questions regarding which particular brand to use.
Cool Mist Humidifier: A cool mist humidifier helps increase the moisture in the air. This will help relieve congestion and a cough if your child has one.
Nasal Aspirator: Babies are unable to blow their nose, so it is our jobs to help them get that mucous out. Using a nasal aspirator is a safe and easy way to immediately alleviate your little one’s congestion. We love using the NoseFrida Snotsucker which safely removes snot from your little one’s nose.
Put the Crib Mattress on an Incline: Elevating a baby on the mattress or in a bouncer will help the fluid drain and not get stuck in their nasal passages. You can easily elevate your little one’s mattress by rolling up receiving blankets and putting them underneath the mattress.
If your symptoms continue for more than a couple days and you might think that your baby has more than the common cold, here are some ways that you might be able to tell if you need to alert the doctor:
When is a cold just a cold? The average child gets 6-10 colds a year, so it’s no wonder they call it the “common” cold. Parents often are unsure when to bring a child to the doctor when they have a cough, runny nose and congestion. Here are a few tips to keep in mind that may indicate something more than “just a cold” is brewing.
Sudden crankiness and irritability– Your child has had a runny nose and congestion for several days, and all of a sudden, gets very cranky and irritable. This is a classic presentation of an ear infection, and will probably require antibiotics. Contact your doctor. Pain relievers like Tylenol and Motrin may help ease the pain in the meantime.
Cough longer than 2 weeks– While the common cold usually lasts several days, it is not uncommon for a cough to last up to 2 weeks. Any cough that persists or is getting worse after 2 weeks is not “just a cold” and should be evaluated. The most likely culprit in this scenario is a sinus infection.
If your child has trouble breathing. If your child is consistently breathing faster than 35-40 times a minute (get a watch with a second hand and count over a full minute), or if you can see the skin between your child’s ribs and below the ribcage sucking in and out with each breath, call your doctor immediately or go to the nearest Emergency Room.
Dehydration: Most kids don’t eat as well during a cold which is par for the course. Drinking, however, is most important and if your child cannot keep fluids down, they are at risk for dehydration and need to be seen.
If your child looks sick: If your child does not look well, call a doctor. If you have to chase after your giggling toddler to wipe their runny nose, odds are that they are not that ill. However, if your child is lying around, not doing what he usually does, getting worse hour by hour or is scaring you with his general appearance, it’s best to call a doctor.
Sudden high fever. A fever over 102 is not typically seen with the common cold and may indicate a more serious infection, such as a sinus infection, ear infection or pneumonia. Children with higher fevers should be evaluated to exclude these possibilities.
If your child is under six months. Young infants are much more likely to develop complications of common colds such as ear infections, wheezing and pneumonia. You may not need to bring your child in, but it’s best to at least touch base with a doctor. If your infant is under six weeks of age with symptoms of cough and runny nose you should always notify your doctor.
If your child gets very ill very suddenly. A cold should not hit your child “like a truck” all at once. It usually starts gradually with a slight cough and a runny nose and progresses over several days. If it starts out with a bang, it may be the flu or something else altogether depending on your child’s symptoms. If it is the flu, it’s important to contact your doctor ASAP because treatment with anti-flu medications may stop it in its tracks. These medications need to be started within the first 48 hours (preferably the first 24) to work.