As a parent, it’s heart-wrenching to see your child sick, especially during their first cold and flu season. But fear not, there are ways to help them get through it. Check out our tips on how to survive your child’s first cold and make the journey a little easier for both of you.
Babies lack the antibodies necessary to combat the majority of colds and gastrointestinal infections, rendering them more susceptible to illness than older children and adults. Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., a pediatric expert at Children’s Mercy Hospital and Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri, estimates that infants experience six to twelve infections in their first year, mostly lasting seven to ten days. That’s up to 120 days per year that they may be ill.
During the first several months, a rectal fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit should prompt a call to the physician. And if your infant is less than one month old, they may require hospital readmission. Theoklis Zaoutis, M.D., associate chief of the division of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, explains, “For this reason, we would want to prevent newborns from being ill.” Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
So, what should a new parent do? Continue reading to discover practices that could help your infant avoid illness throughout the year or make sick days more comfortable for both of you.
The Development of a Cold in Infants
Although infants are born with a portion of their birth parents’ immunity to disease, which can be boosted by breastfeeding, this does not provide complete protection against the ever-changing collection of viruses that cause upper respiratory diseases such as the common cold. The majority of infants will experience multiple colds during their first year of life, and these illnesses will help them develop immunity.
So, how does a baby cold appear? Typically, it develops gradually and lasts about nine days. Some parents find it useful to divide the infection cycle into three different phases: three days coming, three days staying, and three days leaving.
Three days coming
During the first three days of contagious illness, your child may appear fussier than normal, have a somewhat less appetite, and develop a temperature. Call your pediatrician’s office immediately for guidance and instructions if your child is under 3 months old and their rectal temperature is above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. (The good news is that until your child reaches preschool age, a cold often only produces a minor rise in temperature.)
Typically, a runny nose emerges on the second or third day, indicating that your child’s immune system is responding to the infection. The mucus is clear, thin, and constantly flowing at this phase.
Three days here
During the middle stage of a cold, the temperature typically subsides, and your infant may become less fussy and consume more food. The mucus will thicken and possibly turn yellow. Babies get the classic “stuffy and runny nose” around this age.
During this period, they may also acquire a cough. Since mucus falls down the nasal passages to the back of the throat while a newborn is on their back, a cough response is triggered to keep the fluid out of the lungs. This will inevitably disrupt your child’s (and your own) sleep.
Three days away
Colds in infants can linger, similar to an overstaying houseguest. In the last three days, the mucus has grown even thicker and more sticky. Infants at this age behave normally in most respects, eating well and resuming activity.
Preventing a Cold in Infants
Despite the fact that colds are often mild, many parents are concerned about a cold becoming more serious. That is a valid issue, particularly for infants. Although it is not always possible to prevent viral infections, there are steps you may take to reduce the probability that your infant will become extremely unwell.
Indy doctor Mary Ian McAteer, M.D., advises parents to be particularly vigilant until their infant’s first round of vaccinations at 2 months of age. Moreover, infants should avoid crowds, so keep them as much as possible at home. After the first two months, the following are additional methods for preventing your baby from catching a cold.
Keep your infant close by.
While venturing outside, maintain a distance of 6 feet from anyone exhibiting symptoms of disease, such as coughing or sneezing. Consider wearing your infant in a carrier to keep them close. Your baby’s hands and face are less likely to be touched by strangers if he or she is bonded to you. If the child is in a stroller, keeping the canopy down and covering the stroller with a light, breathable blanket can also prevent well-meaning individuals.
Consider the friends your family keeps.
Request that guests who have recently been the ill refrain from visiting until they are symptom-free and fever-free (without using a fever-reducing medicine) for at least 24 hours. Let smaller children observe the infant, but prohibit them from touching them, especially in close proximity to their face and hands.
Wash your hands frequently.
“Many germs are carried on your hands,” explains Dr. Zaoutis. Every time you walk in from a public location, use the restroom, dine, or change a diaper, you should scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds by singing “Happy Birthday” twice. If your infant swallows feces, he or she may experience diarrhea and vomiting.
You should also keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your purse, near the changing table, and near the front door. Be sure to leave some for your guests. According to Dr. Jackson, it is convenient and nearly as effective as hand-washing unless your hands are clearly filthy.
Ensure that your infant is well-nourished.
Research indicates that major colds and ear and throat infections are reduced by 63% in six-month-old infants who are exclusively breastfed. Whenever possible, continue breastfeeding a sick infant to provide them with additional antibodies and an immunological boost.
Yet, not everyone can breastfeed or chooses to do so. Hence, regardless of how you feed your infant, keep them hydrated and well-fed in order to provide them with critical nourishment and comfort while they have a cold.
Germs can live for hours on surfaces like shopping carts and door handles, so include a packet of sanitizing wipes in your diaper bag. At home, germs can persist for extended periods of time on frequently touched objects such as doorknobs, light switches, and worktops. Consider periodically wiping these objects with a disinfecting wipe during the cold season, especially if someone in your household has been sick.
Take measures when visiting the pediatrician.
In the first year, infants visit their pediatrician frequently. Even if your doctor’s office has distinct sick and healthy rooms, according to Dr. Jackson, waiting areas are filthy. Consider requesting the early or last time slot of the day when there are fewer chances of encountering a group of coughing children. Alternatively, request to wait in your car or an exam room instead of the waiting area.
Do not delay or omit any of your child’s immunizations.
Dr. McAteer states, “The greatest approach to prevent diseases like measles, meningitis, and chicken pox is to adhere to the vaccination schedule.” “Parents believe we don’t need these immunizations because we don’t see these diseases often, but it’s proof that they’re performing their job.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is safe to provide so many vaccinations in such a short period of time (CDC).
Get your shots as well.
Parents and expectant parents should receive the flu and pertussis (whooping cough) immunizations in particular. According to Dr. Jackson, receiving a flu vaccination during pregnancy imparts antibodies to the fetus that should last for approximately six months. (The flu vaccine is not administered to infants until they are at least six months old.)
Flu can be fatal for infants, making any adverse effects from the vaccination (such as low-grade fever and nausea) relatively insignificant. In addition, the CDC recommends that pregnant women receive the whooping cough vaccine between 27 and 36 weeks so they do not transmit the disease to their unprotected infant. In summary, everyone in your baby’s circle should be immunized, including older siblings.
Enhance your immunity.
When you have a baby that wakes up every two hours (or more), getting enough sleep is difficult, so napping during the day may be your only option. Ensure that you eat well as well. Keeping your body nourished will assist you in fending off infections that you could otherwise transmit to your child.
How to Treat Your Infant’s Cold
There is no quick remedy for the common cold or influenza. Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses, and the vast majority of antiviral medications are not licensed for infants. In addition, a growing body of evidence suggests that decongestants and combination decongestant-antihistamine medications, which can induce side effects such as agitation or difficulties sleeping in infants and children, are not particularly beneficial in children.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) therefore warns against providing these drugs to children under the age of 2. To combat colds in babies, natural therapies such as suctioning mucus, keeping them hydrated, and keeping the air moist are your best bet.
When to Contact a Physician
In the following instances, you should contact a physician whether your infant has a cold or another sickness.
- If your infant is listless, not responding to you, has bad color, or if you suspect something is wrong, get medical attention immediately.
- If your child’s cough is intensifying or he or she is having trouble breathing, seek medical attention immediately.
- You should seek medical attention if your infant is weeping more than normal, tugging on their ear, or refusing the breast or bottle.
- If you suspect your newborn has the flu, especially if they have a high fever and persistent cough for more than three days, get medical attention immediately.
- If your newborn under 3 months old has a fever, get medical attention immediately (rectal temperature of 100.4 or greater).
- If your older kid has a fever for more than five days, a worsening cough (with or without chest pain), a headache for more than five days, or a headache that is intensifying or accompanied by a stiff neck, you should seek medical attention immediately.
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