How to treat a baby cough or a baby cold
Following
Following the specified course(s)...
X
There was an error while trying to follow the specified course(s).
Check that you are not currently following them or please try again later.

Thank you
Next
2 of 5
my list
Cancel x

Enter your email:

Enter the email addresses you want to share this with:

Thank you!
Page was successfully shared!
You have finished viewing your e-Prescription!
Take a Course
or
Close
Dr Anna Maw

Consultant pediatrician at Cambridge University NHS Trust in the UK. A child doctor specializing in brain development and neurology. She has three children.
{{ ellipsisText }}
start your course

Fever and illness

How to treat a baby cough or a baby cold

Parents often moan that their babies and toddlers seem to pick up absolutely every single baby cough and baby cold that's going around. This is actually partly true. Babies haven't yet built up immunity to cold and cough viruses so they get lots of upper respiratory tract viral infections.
Video Tutorial
In Short
Over the first six years of life, babies build their immunity - and become better able to fight off coughs and colds.

Baby coughs and colds are a normal part of growing up but it's vital you know the symptoms of severe respiratory distress.

How can I soothe my baby’s cough or cold?

If your baby has a mild cough or cold you can soothe your baby or toddler while they have it:

  • Your baby’s fluids needs to be increased, so offer more breastfeeds or milk feeds.
  • If the child has a fever or is in discomfort, paracetamol or ibuprofen can help – always follow the instructions carefully so you don’t overdose.
  • Don’t give painkillers too readily as fever is an important part of your baby’s immune system trying to kill the infection that is causing the cough or cold.
  • If your baby is very snotty and bunged up you can buy safe baby chest rubs and bath products that contain plant oils such as eucalyptus that can help to breathe more easily.

Do not use adult products and check your baby is old enough to use products for children. You can also buy a baby nose suction device which helps to clear their nose if they are struggling to breathe through their nose.

Make sure everyone in the family to wash their hands with soap and dry them properly so the germs won’t spread.

What do I do if my baby has a cough

A cough is usually a normal part of the process of a cold. Mucus trickles down your baby’s throat and coughing is a natural reflex to try to clear it away.

However, babies are much less efficient at getting the oxygen they need and prolonged bouts of coughing will exhaust a baby – this can be a medical emergency so if a cough seems bad, lasts more than a few seconds or a cough itself, has lasted a long time, then do go and see your baby’s doctor urgently. Watch the video for signs of respiratory distress such as belly breathing, wheezing and a suck above the collar bone – if you see any of these signs this may be a medical emergency in a small baby and you need to seek urgent medical help. If the skin around their mouth is white or blue call an ambulance.

What do I do if my baby or toddler has a sore throat?

Sore throats are usually due to a viral infection and start a few days before the cold emerges. If you think your baby is in pain you can use Paracetamol or Ibuprofen in moderation to ease the discomfort – but always follow the instructions precisely to avoid over-dosing. Most sore throats will clear up on their own – but if they last longer than about 4 days, or your child also has a temperature, or is unable to swallow fluids, go and see your doctor.

Lots of baby carrying can also help your baby by soothing them and also stopping their throat feel too dry (due to being held more upright by you).

Croup

Croup is caused by a viral infection and sounds like a seal bark cough due to your baby’s larynx and throat being inflamed. Take your baby to the doctor if you suspect croup as your baby may be struggling to get adequate oxygen if the coughing is prolonged and the infection is bad. To help soothe the croup at home you will probably be up at night to soothe and comfort your baby, offer lots of extra feeds and you can give baby painkillers such as Calpol to ease the pain. Don’t exceed the stated dose. Do not medicate with adult products or cough suppressants in your medical cabinet as they will not be safe for babies.

Again if you see the following signs call an ambulance for your baby:

  • Breathing difficulties.
  • A cough getting increasingly loud and rasping.
  • Lethargy or undue sleepiness.
  • The blue or whitish skin around his lips and face (this may be harder to spot in dark skinned babies so don’t wait for this sign).
  • Sucking in around the neck and ribcage as shown in the video.

The hospital can give oxygen and steroid puffs to help your baby to breathe and open their airways.

Sometimes croup can lead to a secondary, later bacterial infection, e.g. pneumonia. If after your baby has had croup they continue to seem poorly with a fever over 39 degrees celsius with a cough, paler skin, and a rapid pulse call an ambulance. Babies can get ill very quickly so do not be embarrassed if your instinct says that your baby isn’t getting better or has taken a turn for the worst.

Share the knowledge
DISCLAIMER
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.