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What to do when your baby has a cold

Updated on January 13, 2012

Having a sick baby

Having a sick baby can cause you to have a lot of emotions. You probably feel worried, sympathetic, frustrated, tired and helpless to name a few.

Being worried is a natural feeling when you're a parent and your precious little baby doesn't feel well, especially since infants and toddlers under 4 years of age can't take much more than Infants Tylenol.

Here's the thing, it's okay to have all of those feelings but you're not completely helpless. Here are some things you can do for your baby to help them and you feel better when they have a cold. When a baby has a regular common cold, there is nothing a doctor can do for or give your baby. A doctor will most likely tell you to do the same things that I have listed below.

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Steps to helping your baby through their cold

  1. Use a Cool Mist Humidifier - I prefer a cool mist humidifier compared to a warm mist humidifier for a couple of reasons. First, a cool mist humidifier can usually cover a larger area than a warm mist humidifier. Second, a cool mist is more comfortable to use when the weather is warm. Third, although you should keep any humidifier out of a child's reach, a cool mist humidifier is safer around children because it reduces the risk for getting burns. A cool mist humidifier doesn't get hot like a warm mist humidifier does. A humidifier will release moisture into the air which will soften nasal passages and help to break up mucus, making your baby better able to breathe. Babies primarily breathe through their noses rather than their mouths, so making breathing easier for baby will help him/her and you sleep a little easier. Read the directions carefully for use on your humidifier, not all are the same and certain brands may have different or special instruction on use. Make sure you clean the humidifier regularly and as directed. A dirty humidifier can do more harm than good.

  2. Use Saline Nasal Spray- Saline Spray is a salt solution that is safe for young children. Using saline nasal spray will help to moisten dry and irritated nasal passages and will help to break up the mucus and assist in unclogging nasal passages. Read the directions for use before attempting to use. Once you use the nasal spray, you are supposed to blow your nose to clean out. For babies, after application, use an aspirator to suction your baby's nose.
  3. Use an Aspirator - Your baby may not be thanking you while you're using it, but they will be thanking you later once you have a been able to clean their nasal passages, making it easier for them to breathe. You can get a bulb aspirator, like the ones they use at the hospital or you can buy a battery operated aspirator. I personally use the battery operated one, it works great!
  4. Steam up the Bathroom - Take you baby into the bathroom, close the door and turn the shower on HOT. Sit in the bathroom with your baby on your lap for about 5 minutes. Letting the baby breathe in the steam will as help to clear out nasal passages and relieve discomfort during a cold. Make sure the keep the baby away from the hot water to avoid being burned. Don't stay in the bathroom with the steam for too long, you don't want to overheat the baby, especially if you have a small bathroom.
  5. Vicks BabyRub- Only to be used on babies 3 months of age or older. Massage Vick's babyrub on your baby's chest, neck and back. Make sure you're using the BABYrub. Vick's babyrub is non-medicated so it's safe to use. The vapors will help your baby breathe easier. As with everything else, make sure to read the directions on the jar, before use.
  6. Infants Tylenol - Using Infants Tylenol will help to ease your baby's pain and help to reduce a fever (if present). When my baby has a cold, I give him Tylenol before putting him to bed and it helps him (and me) sleep a little easier.
  7. Prop your Baby for Sleep- As adults, we know that when we have a cold and our noses are stuffed up, sleeping can be quite difficult. We usually end up using more pillows than normal to try to prop ourselves upright, in order to be able to let our noses drain so we can breathe and fall asleep. I bring the baby swing into my bedroom and let him sleep semi-upright in there. For children who can't sit up on their own yet, you can also use a "bouncy chair." Never put pillows or blankets in the crib with a baby to prop them, they could suffocate. You can, however, roll up some receiving blankets and place them under one side of the crib mattress to create a slight slant. Place your baby's head on the side that is highest.
  8. Plenty of Fluids- For babies under 4 months of age, make sure they're drinking their breast milk or formula regularly. 4 - 6 month old babies can also have some water. 6 months and older can have water or juice as well. Do not replace regular breast milk or formula feedings with water and/or juice. Your baby still needs just as much feedings as he normally has, in order to get the right amount of nutrients he needs.
  9. Tender Loving Care - This, to me, is probably one of the most important things of all. Everyone wants their Mommy or Daddy when they're sick! Make sure to cuddle and comfort your baby. Let them know that you're there for them and that you love them!

When to Call a Doctor

It's okay to call a doctor any time you're concerned. Whether you're a new parent or have many kids, or know your baby and you know when there's something that's just not right. Use your judgement and trust your parental instincts... you have them for a reason!

It's definitely time to call a doctor when your baby:

  • Has Loss of Appetite - Whether he/she refuses to eat all together, or is eating significantly less than normal you should call a doctor.
  • Isn't Wetting Normal or having Normal Bowel Movements
  • Is Vomiting - Most babies spit up, but spitting up and vomiting are different. Vomiting is a more forceful action, while spitting up is normal for a child under 1 year to do after drinking a bottle or burping.
  • Has a High Fever - A slight fever can usually be taken care of with some Infants Tylenol and will normally go away within a day. A baby under 3 months of age should see a doctor if their temperature hits 100.4 degrees F. For baby's who are 3 - 6 months old, the temperature should not go above 101 degrees F without calling a doctor. Call a doctor for babies 6 months and older if their fever reaches 103 degrees F.
  • Is Having Trouble Breathing - If your baby seems to be having a hard time breathing after you have cleared out the nasal passages, call a doctor. If the baby seems to be gasping for air or is breathing faster than usual.
  • Has a Rash- If your baby has a rash on top of having a cold, call a doctor. This is especially true if the rash is accompanied by a fever. An unexplained or large rash, especially one that looks infected, should be seen by a qualified doctor.
  • Lethargic - If your baby has extreme sleepiness, is just lying around and not being active or is sleeping for an abnormally long period of time.

There are plenty of other reasons that you should probably call a doctor about. Like I said, use your judgement. You know your baby better than anyone else. When in doubt, take the safe bet and call a doctor anyway. Some offices will let you talk on the phone with a nurse practitioner who can then decide whether or not and office visit is necessary.


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    • profile image

      chronic pain 

      4 years ago

      i have read everything. i new mum i have a 6 month baby girl. this is her 2nd cold in the last 2 months. i carefull so much but others in house i live in have colds and dont help the situration. today my baby sneezed nearly 30 times. very sore nose and difficulty breathing through her nose. i in spain so i have to find something like vicks babyrub! no.7 very good point yes that will help so she can breath easyer. everything u have said is very helpful thankgod u and others out here post intresting and very helpful info. sometimes i and others feel very alone and we have common sence but worry that i doing right thing for my baby. i was trying to find sticky menthol patches to put on bedding or clothing. but i not sure if it good enough or will upset baby somehow. because i read many years ago not rub vicks on a babies skin can cause skin problems but now u tell me there is babyrub for babies i breath easyer. thank u again :)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      My baby 3 months with a cold and it irritates him so much, the hot steam help perfectly thanks..

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thks a lot .. shes 6 mo my lil gurl and has a cold her nose and he isn't drinking her formula so I cam on here for help ..

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Thks a lot .. shes 6 mo my lil gurl and has a cold her nose and he isn't drinking her formula so I cam on here for help ..

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have 3 kid's under 12. For cold's and allergies the best is Ayr Saline Gel, or Saline spray's!!! Plus vic's I rub on their chest @night. Fight's a cold quick! If they have fever or not comfortable then I will give children's advil.

    • NikkiSpangler profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thank you for giving an answer to the question. I was just about to do the same. :) I'm glad this article was helpful! Thank you!

    • profile image


      6 years ago


      An aspirator is the snot sucker. It is a plastic tool that has a bulb shape. You squeeze it, stick it up their nose, and release. It helps to suck the snot and other stuff out of a baby's nose. It's best to use it with saline spray.


      Thank you for this article. It really helped!!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      what is a aspirator, and what does it do for the baby.

    • profile image

      Anjali A 

      7 years ago

      Thank you for squeezing all that into one article. All were things I needed reminding of.


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