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How to deal with cold in a baby

Autumn chill, temperature oscillations, and rain are not favourable for baby's health. With their immunity still immature, babies start to sneeze, cough, and sniff. How to deal with cold, and react to first signs of infection, what you can do at home and when you should contact a doctor - you can find all this information in our article.
Edited by LOVI, consultation: Danuta Chrzanowska-Liszewska MD, neonatologist | 22 March 2014

Quick reaction is important

Danuta Chrzanowska-Liszewska, MD

Nobody else knows your baby as well as you do, so you will certainly notice when his body signals presence of viruses. Disease signs other than cold, sneezing, coughing or reddened throat, can be specific for each child. Some babies are cranky, some irritated and rebellious, while yet others are sleepy and cling to their parents.

The truth is that with time and illness recurrences (which we do not wish you), you will interpret baby's behaviour faultlessly. This way your first reaction can be quick, to support baby's body in its fight with cold on time, so it does not develop in a more serious infection.

Quick reaction is also important for prevention. If the baby got wet through or chilled, do not wait for the signs, and preventively apply some of the actions listed below, such as herbal infusion to drink and added to the bath, a few drops of essential oils in the bedroom, warming ointment on feet and warm comforter.

Aspiring discharge from the nose is a must!

The baby cannot clean his nose himself, and germs will multiply in built-up discharge. Due to a characteristic structure of small child's nose and throat (inner ear canal in the middle ear runs horizontally), hindered ventilation and presence of discharge can result in middle ear infection!

Cold remedies

The baby got cold, his nose is blocked, he sneezes, coughs or his temperature may be raised. What you should and can do, largely depends on the baby's age. In the frame at the end of this text you will find tips when you should go to a doctor.

But when the infection is mild and without complication, you can attempt home remedies.

Cleaning a nose

You should buy a nasal aspirator and saline in ampoules or spray. When you decide to buy spray, note the spraying strength which should not be too strong, because it can be very unpleasant for the baby.

Saline should be dispensed/sprayed on nasal walls several times during the day. When only any discharge appears in the nose, or when you hear characteristic buzz in the little nose, you should evacuate discharge with the aspirator. Sometimes, when discharge is copious, you can use hypertonic sea water, which will help you to remove discharge from the nose.


Inhalations alleviate pain, moisten mucosa, and reduce swelling in the larynx and the throat. Salt or essential oils inhibit multiplication of viruses, and have aseptic and antibacterial effect.  

For small children, a nebuliser is a useful thing, as it eliminates a risk of scalding the baby with hot infusion. Just add about 2.5 ml of saline to a container and give inhalations to the baby 2–3 times a day.

When you do not have such equipment, kitchen accessories will suffice. Pour a litre of water into a pot, add a tablespoon of kitchen or sea salt, boil, take it off the range and pour into another vessel. Give inhalations to the baby with raising steam for about 10–15 minutes. This treatment can also be given in the bathroom, during the bath. Be careful not to scald the baby.

Herbs and home-made syrups

Granny's remedies from folk medicine? Why not? It is good to use natural properties of plants. During cold you will find particularly useful those promoting sweating and having antipyretic effect: linden flower, elder flower, raspberry flowers/fruit, and anti-cough, such as thyme.

When the child does not want to drink herbal teas, you can provide him with benefits of herbs in other way, during the evening bath. Simply, pour some herbal infusion into the water. It is an excellent way to use some herbs having specific taste, for example, thyme.

Home-made syrup is easy to make, natural and effective. Onion, garlic, raspberries, or honey give what they have the best. The simplest recipe is an onion syrup: place slices of onion in a jar layering them with honey (or possibly sugar), close the container, and put in a warm place; after several hours onion releases juice, which you should give to the baby twice a day (a teaspoon). It has an antibacterial and slightly expectorant effect.


On one hand, it is a sign of body's fighting the disease, but too high, exceeding 38 °C, hinders normal activities of the baby, causes headaches and clearly worsens his mood. Give some OTC medicines, in the form of syrups, drops or suppositories. Remember that when his temperature is raised, the baby loses water easily. During infection with fever give the baby plenty of fluids at a room temperature to drink . When the baby's condition is good after reducing the fever, the baby plays and there are no worrying signs, you can easily wait for 3 days applying the above treatment methods. However, when the raised temperature is maintained for more than 3 days or baby's condition is worrying, consult a doctor.


Just as us, adults, the baby's appetite is reduced during infection. Remember that this will pass. Give the baby light snacks, such as baked apple, light gruel, kissel with fruit, delicate vegetable soup. When the baby refuses, you should understand this and not force him. Nothing by force. The first sign of improving health is improved appetite. Just remember to give him neutral drinks, like mild fruit tea or water.

Chest percussion

Prepare baby's bedroom for night time sleep
  • air the room;

  • maintain the temperature in the room at 19–21°C;

  • ensure the air is humidified;

  • put bed legs at a head end higher, or possibly offer a pillow to the baby, so his head is higher than the body;

  • drop a few drops of essential oil near baby's bed.

Several times a day, you can delicately pat baby's back with a cupped palm. This will help to detach discharges blocking the bronchi.

Warming up

Warming ointments are a good solution, particularly when applied for the night. A pharmacist will help you to select these appropriate for the baby's age.

After the bath, apply the ointment to baby's feet, then put the socks on; in older children you can apply it on the upper chest and back.

Pharmacological support

From the very start of the signs through the next seven days, give to the baby a dose of vitamin C and calcium, as recommended on a packaging by a manufacturer.

Other formulations available at a pharmacy that you can use involve marjoram ointment under baby's nose, warming ointment and essential oils, such as pine or eucalyptus oils.


To help the baby in his fight with viruses you must provide him with appropriate environment:

  • whole flat, including the baby's room, should be aired a few times a day, ensuring the baby is not exposed to drafts;

  • air should be humidified (you can use air humidifier or wet nappies on a radiator);

  • temperature in the flat should not exceed 21–23°C;

  • do not dress the baby in two sweaters and warm socks; the baby should not be overheated;

  • ensure cleanness, as allergens can negatively affect recovery.

Sleep and peace

Ensure quiet and peaceful environment, love and rest for your baby. The ill body needs sleep to recover strength. And the best medicine for the bad mood of your baby is your patience and tenderness.

When the baby does not want to stay in bed, do not force him, because you will not be able to keep him in there anyway... Propose to him some quiet games at home. When the baby does not have fever or cough, and the weather is good, you can take him for a short walk. Remember to clean the baby's nose first, so he is not forced to breathe through his mouth.

A moment for the convalescent

After a few days of illness there comes a morning when your baby wakes up with his nose clean, smiling and ready to conquer the world. Great, but now it is important not to exaggerate with the euphoria caused by his recovery. Baby's body is still tired after illness and his immune system is weakened, so for the next few days do not take him to a nursery or a kindergarten, do not encourage him to crazy games at a playground or in a kid's club; ensure his diet is full of fresh vegetables and fruit, and every day go for a long, quiet autumn walk.

When should you consult a doctor?

When your baby is very small, under 6 months of age, each infection must be consulted with a doctor. In such small babies, defence reactions and mechanisms of the immune system are still insufficiently developed, so there is a risk of fast and rapid disease development. The doctor should examine the baby (lymph nodes, throat, nose and ears) and listen to his lungs.

With the older child, go to a doctor when home remedies are ineffective:
  • child has a fever (temperature exceeding 38°C) and it lasts for more than three days;

  • cough increases, the child coughs out the discharge, and particularly, when the cough is stronger during the night;

  • earache, shortness of breath or vomiting starts;

  • there is no improvement, the signs progress or there is a worrying change in baby's behaviour.

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