Caring For Baby With Respiratory Illness
An upper-respiratory infection (the common cold) is most infants' first illness. Colds are caused by viruses caught from others, not by fresh air or cool weather. There are no vaccines to prevent colds. They begin with nasal congestion and drainage and may include fever and a cough.
In fall and winter, babies can have colds every three to four weeks. A cold can take a week to ten days to run its course, so it may feel to you that one cold barely ends before another begins.
Infants often have fever for the first few days of a cold. Unless there is also a bacterial infection, antibiotics won't do any good. Comfort measures will help your baby rest and feed until the infection clears up:
* A soft-rubber bulb syringe will clear nasal secretions before feedings and sleep. Use infrequently to avoid irritating nasal tissues.
* If nasal secretions are thick or dry, a couple of drops of warm water or salt water in each nostril three or four times a day may help loosen them. Saltwater nose drops are available over the counter. (Or make them at home by mixing 1/4 teaspoon salt with four ounces of water.) A vaporizer or humidifier can also help.
* Elevating the head of the bed (put a thin pillow or blanket under one end of the mattress) may help the baby rest more easily.
If nasal drainage goes from watery to thick and yellow-green, watch it for a few days. If the infant is also becoming more irritable or running a high fever, consult your healthcare provider.
Don't give cold remedies such as decongestants and cough suppressants to infants younger than six to nine months, unless your healthcare provider recommends it. If your baby's cough lasts longer than two weeks or gets worse, she may have a lower-respiratory infection, possibly bronchitis or pneumonia. These conditions are usually treated at home with antibiotics unless the baby has trouble breathing, keeps vomiting or doesn't respond well to the antibiotics.
Young infants often get bronchiolitis, another lower-respiratory infection, in winter. It begins with a clear runny nose and progresses to coughing and wheezing. This is viral and cannot be treated with antibiotics. In rare cases, hospitalization may be needed for breathing problems.
When to Contact Your Healthcare Provider
* Your infant is coughing to the point of vomiting.
* Your child has a deep chest cough.
* There is labored or rapid breathing.
* There is wheezing.
* The cold is lasting longer than two weeks.
* Fever develops several days after a cold begins.
* Your baby is having difficulty breathing.
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