When to See a Doctor When Your Baby Has a Cold

Medically Reviewed on 6/13/2022
When to See a Doctor When Your Baby Has a Cold
If your baby has a cold, signs that it may be time to see a doctor include poor feeding, dehydration, breathing difficulties, ear pain, and more.

As a parent, you may have an instinct for when something is wrong with your baby. However, even experienced parents need help sometimes. If your baby has a cold, here are signs to look for to let you know when it is time to see a doctor:

What is the common cold?

A cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract (nose, throat, larynx, and sinuses) that can be caused by several different viruses:

These viruses enter the body through the eyes, mouth, or nose via:

  • Air droplets: Droplets of saliva or mucus in the air produced by sneezing, coughing, or talking can cause the virus to be inhaled.
  • Contact with an infected person: Direct contact with an infected person can cause the virus to enter through the baby’s natural nose, mouth, or eyes.
  • Surface contamination: Most viruses can live for a long time on surfaces, and babies can catch a cold by touching these surfaces.

What are common cold symptoms and signs?

Cold symptoms tend to occur 1-3 days after exposure to the virus and may include the following:

  • Cough
  • Runny nose or congestion
  • Watery or thick nasal discharge that may be yellow or greenish
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Reduced appetite
  • Sleeping difficulties

How long do colds last in babies?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is common for children to have six to 12 colds a year during infancy as their immune systems develop. When there are no complications, colds typically resolve within 10-14 days.

A cold typically lasts for 7 to 10 days.

  • Early-stage (days 1-3): About 50% of patients will have a tickly or sore throat as an initial symptom, followed by congestion, runny nose, sneezing, fatigue, body aches, coughing, and hoarse voice.
  • Active or peak stage (days 4-7): Symptoms typically peak in their intensity during this stage, and a fever may occur.
  • Late-stage (days 8-10): All symptoms may subside during this stage, and the person may feel better.

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine available to prevent the common cold. The only defense against it is through preventive and precautionary measures, such as hand washing before touching or feeding the baby, keeping them away from someone who is sick, covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, and cleaning the toys and frequently touched surfaces.


Newborn babies don't sleep very much. See Answer

What are possible complications of a cold?

In some cases, the common cold can lead to complications such as:

How often should you take your baby for a check-up?

Frequent minor colds are common and typically harmless for an infant’s new, rapidly developing immune system.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, pediatric check-ups are recommended:

  • At birth
  • About 3-5 days after birth
  • Month 1
  • Month 2
  • Month 4
  • Month 6
  • Month 9
  • Month 12
  • Month 15
  • Month 18
  • Month 24

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Medically Reviewed on 6/13/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

American Academy of Pediatrics. "Children and Colds." <https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/ear-nose-throat/Pages/Children-and-Colds.aspx>.