How to deal with that first cold?

When your baby gets their first cold it can be a scary and emotional time. We try to believe that we keep our babies free from harm and illness but the reality is that they will get sick. That certainly doesn’t make it any easier to watch though!

As young babies have had no contact with the viruses floating around, then they are more vulnerable to illness than we are. Most colds are caused by viruses and amazingly, there are over 200 types of virus’ that can cause colds or upper-respiratory tract infections. This is the reason why you can’t be immunised against a cold. The virus’ that cause colds are spread by sneezing, coughing and hand contact.

Your baby will get a cold at some point it is inevitable. The question is; how do you know if you can manage it at home or if you need to get extra help?

Some common cold symptoms in young babies can be:

  • Coughing
  • Blocked nose
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sneezing
  • Unsettled
  • Red eyes

If your baby has one or more of these symptoms, but remain happy with no fever, then you can probably manage the cold at home. However, there are some things you can do to make your baby more comfortable. These include:

  • Using drops (like FESS) to unblock their nose, especially before feeding
  • Feed more frequently to keep them hydrated and calm
  • Offer more cuddles and comfort
  • Let them sleep more if they need it
  • Stay home as much as you can

Remember babies with blocked noses will often not feed or sleep well. Babies are mostly nose breathers therefore they are more likely to wake frequently overnight. Don’t panic as it usually passes once the baby can breathe more easily through their nose.

If your baby has a fever, then you may need to get them checked over by your GP. A fever is classified as a temperature above 37.5C. When taking your baby’s temperature, it is ideal to use a digital or infrared thermometer inserted in their mouth or under their arm. Digital ear thermometers are okay too.

If your baby does have a temperature, then here are some ways to keep them comfortable and help reduce the temperature:

  • Dress your baby in layers so you can remove or add clothing as you need to but don’t overheat! Less is more if your baby is hot.
  • Keep offering feeds/fluids as babies can dehydrate quickly when they have a fever.
  • Depending on your baby’s age you can give them paracetamol or pain relief as per the medication’s instructions. Never give aspirin or Ibuprofen to babies under 6 months of age.*
  • Monitor them and take their temperature regularly to make sure it is reducing, if not, seek advice from your GP.

It is always the best idea to get your baby checked by a doctor if you are concerned. It is important to trust you own instincts so don’t let someone talk you out of seeking help if you really feel your baby is unwell. It is also very important to get your baby to an emergency room quickly if your baby has any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe vomiting
  • Refusing all feeds
  • Bulging fontanelle
  • Fitting or convulsing
  • If your child is under one month and has a fever

The first cold is always the worse and the most stressful for new parents. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and if you are at all concerned, see you GP.

*National Home Doctor Service,

Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.