How to Handle a Cold in a Young Infant How to Handle a Cold in a Young Infant

A cold is a respiratory infection of the nose, throat, and sinus passages. The baby will have increased nasal congestion and perhaps a cough. Protective maternal antibodies are still in a baby's circulation for the first 4 months of life, and that's why so many illnesses, bypass a newborn. However sometimes a baby will catch a cold, such as respiratory synctial virus, which is spread by hand contact with someone who has a runny nose or scratchy throat.

Most upper respiratory infections will resolve spontaneously and do not require any treatment. However, if the baby has a deep, moist cough, he/she should be seen by the pediatrician to check that the cold didn't travel to the baby's chest.

Older infants (> 3 months) can experience a low grade fever (less than 102F or 38.9C) when they have an upper respiratory infection. It can last for days. If the baby has a high grade fever, (>102), they should be seen by a pediatrician.

Special note

Infants less than 2 months: any rectal temperature of 100.5 or more Fahrenheit (38.1 C) is considered a fever. Newborns with any fever must be seen immediately to make sure they don't have a more serious cause of fever, such as group B strep or urinary tract infection.  Note: to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit, multiply by 1.8 and add 32. To convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, subtract 32 and divide by 1.8

How to treat a cold in young infants :

Nasal congestion will make it harder for the baby to sleep.

Positioning the baby upright helps. This will help the baby handle his/her secretions. Instead of having the baby sleep flat in his/her crib, parents can place pillows or blankets under the mattress in the crib or bassinet to elevate the head 30-45 degrees (as if in a partially reclined beach chair). 

A warm compress on the side of the nose will help loosen the mucus.

Saline drops may be applied in the nostrils every 1-2 hours.  Place 1-2 drops in each nostril especially 30 minutes before feeds and bedtime.  Suctioning is not required after every application. 

A nasal aspirator can be used, but it must be cleaned and only placed on the outer nostril, not "into" the nose. If your indoor air is dry, use a humidifier or hang a damp towel near the radiator.

If the baby is breastfeeding - the mother can eat some extra fruit or take 3 tablets of 250mg Vit C to increase the vitamin C in her milk

Cough and cold remedies are not recommended for young infants because of concern for possible side effects. Decongestants can cause hyperexcitability and antihistamines can cause drowsiness.