Braving Your Toddler’s First Sniffles

By the time your baby turns one, he/she begins to get prone to a lot of viral attacks of cold, cough etc. This is because they become more mobile, go out more often increasing their contact with more people and surfaces that may be infected with viruses, and in general have a much weaker immunity than older children or adults. Your little one’s first sniffles are the worst on you, as a mother! My 14.5 month old daughter just had her first cold and boy, was I distraught. But looks like I am not alone. If statistics are to be believed on an average a child gets 6-10 colds a year! Here’s all the information to help you and your baby brave through the rough waters!

What is the common cold?

The common cold is an infectious viral disease of the upper respiratory tract, primarily affecting the nose.

What are the symptoms of the common cold in toddlers?

If your toddler has a cold, he/she may exhibit one or more of these symptoms: a runny nose, cough, nasal congestion, sore throat, muscle fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, and low grade fever.

What causes the common cold?

Contrary to popular belief, a cold (the common cold) is not really caused by exposure to cold (going out in winters or eating an ice lolly – though it did get its name from that false belief). As the definition explains, it is caused by viruses communicated through direct contact and/or through air borne droplets.

How can I prevent my toddler from catching the cold?

Since the most common way that the common cold is spread is through hand to hand or surface to surface contact it is very important to practice good hygiene – Washing your and your baby’s hands every time you come back from a trip outside, after diaper changes/potty time, before cooking, before eating, minimizing contact with an affected person and his/her belongings, and so on.

How long does a cold last?

A common cold can last anywhere from 5 days to 3 weeks.

You can never predict when your child is going to fall sick. He/she can catch a cold suddenly. For example, in my daughter’s case, suddenly she got up at 2AM with a stuffy nose – she was perfectly fine when I put her to bed that night! It starts with congestion mostly – you can hear them snore while breathing. There will be a constant watery trickle. Over the next few days, expect lot of crankiness, loss of appetite. Increase in congestion can also cause post nasal drip which means your baby will experience light cough. As the cold progresses, the nasal secretion might become thicker and change in color to yellow or green. Slight fever is also possible. By the5 or the 7th day, the symptoms should typically start improving.

When should I see the doctor?

Even though there is no prescription (or over the counter) drug to cure the common cold, you must see your doctor if:

  • The cold symptoms do not show any improvement even after 7 days or continue to exist after 14 days.
  • Your baby has a fever of 103 F or a low grade fever that lasts for more than 2 days.
  • Your baby is experiencing severe continuous cough.
  • Your baby is experience ear pain and is tugging at his/her ears constantly.
  • Your baby has diarrhea, severe vomiting or has completely stopped taking solids or liquids.

How can I treat my toddler’s cold and its symptoms?

Firstly, remember there is no medication to make the viral infection go away faster, so steer clear of cough syrups, or any oral cold medication. These contain anti-histamines and other substances that can harm your toddler. However, there are a number of steps you can take to make sure your baby is as comfortable as the cold will let him/her be.

  • Saline and Suction

Use saline drops or spray to moisturize your child’s nasal passages. You can then use a suction device such as a nasal aspirator to suck out the mucous. Since babies and toddlers cannot blow their nose, this is the best way to clear their nostrils. Here’s what I use:

This saline spray comes with a very convenient and safe nozzle to insert into your baby’s nose. Infact, I have been using this ever since my daughter was 3 months old.

Every time I felt some stuffiness, I would instantly use it to prevent a full blown cold.

For suction, I use this nasal aspirator that we got at the hospital where my daughter was born. The nurse taught us how to use it and I used it for the first time only when my daughter turned 14 months old.  Babies hate it but it is very effective in sucking out all that snort (yuck! But yes!)

  • Steamer/Vaporizer/Humidifier

Dry air worsens the cold symptoms and makes it difficult for your baby to sleep. Try using a steamer, vaporizer or humidifier in your room during sleep time. You can also use an inhalant with the humidifier to have a better effect. A warm bath or sitting in a bathroom with your baby for 15 minutes with running hot shower on will also help.You may get it here.

  • Elevation for sleep

You can help your little one sleep better by elevating his/her head using a pillow or a wedge. Always ensure that there is no soft cushioning around the face to avoid suffocation.

  • Vaporubs, Oils, etc.

You can use Baby Vapo Rub (it should specifically say for babies and should not have any camphor) to massage your baby’s toes, neck and chest area to help him/her breathe better through the congestion.

Another “desi nuskha” is boiling garlic cloves in mustard oil till they are brown and using the sieved and cooled oil to massage your baby.

You can also use eucalyptus oil around your baby’s nose or his sleeping area.

  • Warm liquids

Your baby’s appetite is surely going to take a hit during a cold. However, ensure that you keep your baby well hydrated by offering warm apple juice, a variety of vegetable soups, chicken soup/broth, water with honey or lime (only for toddlers over 1 year of age), fruit juices etc. Don’t force milk or solids if your toddler resists because he/she may genuinely find it difficult to swallow.

  • Finally, and most importantly, lots of TLC!

Relax your rules, cuddle up with your baby/toddler and make sure both of you get lots of rest!

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