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:
- Refusal to feed or poor feeding
- Dehydration (dry mouth, fewer tears when crying, fewer wet diapers than usual)
- Unusual sleepiness or crankiness
- Noisy breathing or wheezing
- Fever over 100.4 F (babies younger than 3 months)
- Fever over 102 F (babies older than 3 months)
- Fever or cough lasting more than 72 hours
- Runny nose that does not get better
- Thick, green nasal discharge
- Vomit that contains cough or mucus
- Earache, sore throat, or diarrhea
- Bluish-tinged skin around the lips or mouth
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:
- Rhinovirus (most common)
- Respiratory syncytial virus
- Human parainfluenza 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:
- Runny nose or congestion
- Watery or thick nasal discharge that may be yellow or greenish
- Sore throat
- 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.
What are possible complications of a cold?
In some cases, the common cold can lead to complications such as:
- Acute otitis media (middle ear infection)
- Acute sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses)
- Wheezing or asthma (constant or recurrent colds)
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
- Women's Gymnastics Brings High Risk for Concussion
- Going Solo: Masturbation May Give Humans an Evolutionary Edge
- Longer Breastfeeding in Infancy, Better School Grades for Kids?
- Kids With ADHD, Behavior Issues Have Poorer Trajectories as Adults
- FDA Finalizes Limit on How Much Arsenic Can Be in Apple Juice
- More Health News »
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Academy of Pediatrics. "Children and Colds." <https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/ear-nose-throat/Pages/Children-and-Colds.aspx>.
Top When to See a Doctor When Your Baby Has a Cold Related Articles
Breastfeeding (and Formula Feeding)It's important to know whether you will breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby prior to delivery, as the breasts' ability to produce milk diminishes soon after childbirth without the stimulation of breastfeeding. Breast milk is easily digested by babies and contains infection-fighting antibodies and cholesterol, which promotes brain growth. Formula-fed babies actually need to eat somewhat less often since formula is less readily digested by the baby than human milk. This article explores the advantages and disadvantages of both forms of feeding.
Cold, Fever and Flu Symptoms in Children: Medications and Home RemediesHow long does a cold last? How long is a cold contagious? Colds and fevers are some of the most common ailments in children. Learn common cold symptoms, treatment options, over the counter (OTC) medicines for cold and fever, home remedies, and how to relieve a sore throat.
Cold & Flu QuizAches? Pain? Fever? This Cold & Flu Quiz tests your knowledge on the difference between coming down with the common cold and sickness from influenza virus.
Cold and Cough Medicine for Infants and ChildrenThe safety of giving infants and children over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medicine is important for caregivers to understand. While there is no "gold standard" recommendation for giving infants and children OTC cold and cough medicine for fever, aches, cough, and runny nose, a few standards have been recommended.
Common ColdThe common cold (viral upper respiratory tract infection) is a contagious illness that may be caused by various viruses. Symptoms include a stuffy nose, headache, cough, sore throat, and maybe a fever. Antibiotics have no effect upon the common cold, and there is no evidence that zinc and vitamin C are effective treatments.
How to Prevent the Common ColdWhat home remedies work for the common cold? The common cold is arguably the most common human illness. Learn how long the common cold lasts and treatment for the common cold, and see how often people get colds.
Common Cold QuizTake this quiz to learn the truth behind the infectious, contagious, uncomfortable disease known as the common cold. Test your knowledge of colds; get prevention tips, and learn what you may want to avoid when treating a cold!
Common Cold: Early Signs and 4 StagesThe common cold or viral rhinitis is an upper respiratory infection caused by several types of viruses. It is one of the most common infectious diseases affecting humans. A common cold may typically follow a certain pattern of progression that has four different stages.
How Can I Get Rid of a Cold While Breastfeeding?The common cold is a viral infection that affects your nose and throat. There is no cure for the cold while breastfeeding, so you’ll need to give it time to clear up.
How Do You Decongest a Baby?Nose and chest congestion are a common occurrence in babies. You can decongest your baby with rest, positioning, hydration, a warm bath, and other home remedies. Most cases of nasal congestion are harmless, but in a few cases where the chest is congested and the baby is not taking feeds, is dull, or has a high fever, it is prudent to seek medical consultation.
How Does the Flu Affect the Immunocompromised?Influenza, or the flu, is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It is generally a mild illness that can be treated at home with over-the-counter medications and rest. However, for people with compromised immune systems, the flu can be much more serious. This includes the increased risk of complications, prolonged illness, weakened immune system, and increased risk of death.
Nasal IrrigationClogged sinuses and congestion bothering you? Nasal irrigation can relieve sinus symptoms associated with colds and allergies. Learn how to do nasal irrigation with this visual guide from WebMD.
How to Get Rid of a Cold: Natural RemediesWhat home remedies work to get rid of a cold fast? Many claim cold symptoms and flu symptoms can be relieved with Echinacea, zinc, neti pots, garlic, vitamin C, saltwater gargles, nasal strips, or bed rest. Find out what cold and flu treatments work the natural way, and what doesn't.
How to Differentiate Between the Signs and Symptoms of COVID-19, Allergies, Cold, and Flu?Coronavirus disease or COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Most people with COVID-19 will experience a mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without the need for intensive or special treatment. Serious illness is more likely in elderly people and those with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer.
What Do You Give a Child With a Cold?Unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold. Antibiotics may be used to fight bacterial infections, but they have no effect on viruses.
What Is Good for a Child's Cold?The common cold is one of the main reasons for missing schools in children and missing work in adults. Children are affected more commonly with cold than adults, who may have an average of two to three colds each year.