Cold & Cough

Symptoms and Causes of Cold in Infants

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A common cold is a viral infection of your baby's nose and throat. Nasal congestion and a runny nose are the main indicators of a cold.

Babies are especially susceptible to the common cold, in part because they're often around other older children. Also, they have yet to develop immunity to many common infections. Within the first year of life, most babies have up to seven colds; they may have more if they're in child care centers.

Treatment for the common cold in babies involves easing their symptoms, such as by providing fluids, keeping the air moist and helping them keep their nasal passages open. Very young infants must see a doctor at the first sign of the common cold to make sure croup, pneumonia or other more serious illnesses aren't present.

Symptoms

The first indication of the common cold in a baby is often:

• A congested or runny nose
• Nasal discharge that may be clear at first but might thicken and turn yellow or green

Other signs and symptoms of a common cold in a baby may include:

• Fever
• Sneezing
• Coughing
• Decreased appetite
• Irritability
• Difficulty sleeping
• Trouble nursing or taking a bottle due to nasal congestion

Causes

The common cold is an infection of the nose and throat (upper respiratory tract infection) that can be caused by one of more than 100 viruses. Rhinoviruses are the most common.

Once infected by a virus, your baby generally becomes immune to that virus. But because so many viruses cause colds, your baby may have several colds a year and many throughout his or her lifetime. Also, some viruses don't produce lasting immunity.

A common cold virus enters your baby's mouth, nose or eyes. Your baby can be infected with a virus by:

• Air. When someone who is sick coughs, sneezes or talks, he or she might directly spread the virus to your baby.
• Direct contact. Someone with a cold who touches your baby's hand can spread the cold virus to your baby, who can become infected after touching his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
• Contaminated surfaces. Some viruses live on surfaces for two hours or longer. Your baby may catch a virus by touching a contaminated surface, such as a toy.

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