The first signs of the common cold in a baby are often:
- A congested or runny nose.
- Nasal discharge that may be clear at first but might thicken and turn yellow or green.
Other signs and symptoms of a common cold in a baby may include:
- Decreased appetite.
- Difficulty in sleeping.
- Trouble nursing or taking a bottle due to nasal congestion.
The common cold is an infection of the nose and throat (upper respiratory tract infection) that can be caused by one of more than 200 viruses. Rhinoviruses are the most common.
A cold virus enters your baby's body through his or her mouth, eyes, or nose.
Once infected by a virus, your baby generally becomes immune to that virus. But because so many viruses cause colds, your baby may have several colds a year and many throughout his or her lifetime. Also, some viruses don't produce lasting immunity.
Your baby can be infected with a virus by:
- Air. When someone who is sick coughs, sneezes, or talks, he or she might directly spread the virus to your baby.
- Direct contact. Someone with a cold who touches your baby's hand can spread the cold virus to your baby, who can become infected after touching his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
- Contaminated surfaces. Some viruses live on surfaces for two hours or longer. Your baby may catch a virus by touching a contaminated surface, such as a toy.
These conditions can occur along with a common cold:
- Acute ear infection (otitis media). This is the most common complication of the common cold. Ear infections occur when bacteria or viruses enter the space behind the eardrum.
- Wheezing. A cold can trigger wheezing, even if your child doesn't have asthma. If your child does have asthma, a cold can make it worse.
- Acute sinusitis. A common cold that doesn't resolve may lead to an infection within the sinuses (sinusitis).
- Other infections. A common cold can lead to other infections, including pneumonia, bronchiolitis, and croup. Such infections need to be treated by a doctor.
There's no vaccine for the common cold. The best defense against the common cold is common-sense precautions and frequent hand-washing.
- Keep your baby away from anyone who's sick. If possible, avoid public transportation and public gatherings with your baby.
- Wash your hands before feeding or touching your baby. Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Teach your older children the importance of hand-washing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Clean your baby's toys and pacifiers often. Clean frequently touched surfaces. This is especially important if someone in your family or your baby's playmate has a cold.
- Teach everyone in the household to cough or sneeze into a tissue. Throw away used tissues right away and then wash your hands thoroughly. If you can't reach a tissue in time, cough or sneeze into your elbow. Then wash your hands.
Call the doctor if your baby:
- Isn't wetting as many diapers as usual.
- Has a temperature higher than 100.4 F (38 C)Seems to have ear pain or is unusually irritable.
- Has red eyes or develops yellow or greenish eye discharge.
- Has trouble breathing or wheezing.
- Has a persistent cough.
- Has thick, green nasal discharge for several days.
- Has other signs or symptoms that worry you, such as an unusual or alarming cry or not waking up to eat.