A cold is an infection caused by a virus. The virus usually affects the nose and throat, and may affect the sinuses and ears. A cold can also affect the tube that connects the middle ear and throat, as well as the windpipe, voice box, and upper airways. Colds are also called upper respiratory infections.
In a young baby, the air passages through the nose and between the ear and throat are small. Mucus can block these small passages during a cold and cause trouble breathing. Most babies also don’t eat well when it’s hard for them to breathe.
Many different viruses can cause colds. The infection spreads when viruses are passed between people by sneezing or coughing. Your baby may have caught the virus from another person or from touching something with the virus on it, such as a toy at day care.
Symptoms may include:
Symptoms usually start 1 to 3 days after contact with a cold virus and can last 1 to 2 weeks. Cold and flu symptoms are similar. The difference is that when your child has the flu, the symptoms start within a few hours. The symptoms of a cold develop more slowly.
Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. A sample of fluid from your child’s nose or throat may be tested if your provider thinks something other than a cold is causing your child's symptoms.
Antibiotics can kill bacteria, but not viruses. Colds are caused by viruses, so antibiotics do not help.
You can do nasal rinses to help clear your baby’s air passages and help your child breathe.
You can buy saline solution or make your own by mixing 1/2 teaspoon salt with 1 cup of water.
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:
Ask your provider:
Call your healthcare provider for any questions especially if your child is less than 3 months old or was born prematurely, and for any problems with breathing or feeding.
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.