If you catch a cold, there are many steps you can take to curtail your symptoms and feel better, including comfort foods, hot tea, and the use of over-the-counter cold medications. But it becomes more challenging to help a 1-month-old fight cold symptoms, when medications and chicken soup are not options. Although there is no cure for the common cold, you can take steps to help your baby feel more comfortable and reduce the risk of a more severe infection. If your child is premature or has a medical condition, contact his pediatrician at the first sign of a cold, to ensure his symptoms aren't related to a more serious infection.
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Newborns have immature immune systems, and their bodies are not able to fight off illnesses as well as older babies and children. If you are breastfeeding your infant, continue this practice to help support your baby's immune system. Breast milk transfers immune factors from mom to baby, to reduce the risk of infections, and also provide additional protection during illness. In fact, infection-fighting white blood cells have been shown to increase in breast milk when mom or baby has an infection. While breastfeeding may not make your baby's cold go away faster, it may reduce the risk of developing complications, such as an ear infection or pneumonia.
Keep Baby Hydrated
Whether your baby is nourished by breast milk or infant formula, feed him regularly to prevent dehydration. Most 1-month-old babies feed every 2 to 3 hours, but watch for cues from your infant, and feed more frequently if needed while he is recovering from a cold -- especially if he has a fever. Do not offer other fluids, such as water or electrolyte solutions, as young infants need only formula or breast milk to meet their daily fluid intake. If you are concerned your baby isn't getting enough fluids, contact his pediatrician.
Clear Baby's Nose
In the first few months of life, infants breathe exclusively through their nose -- making nasal congestion in a 1-month-old particularly uncomfortable. Because your baby cannot blow his nose, you can ease your infant's discomfort by clearing this mucus for him. It's especially important to do this before feedings to enhance his ability to suck and swallow. Gentle use of a bulb syringe is a simple way to clear your baby's nose and make breathing easier. If the nasal mucus is thick or dry, using 1 to 2 drops of saline nose drops per nostril may help prior to using the bulb syringe.
Dry air can lead to discomfort by drying out nasal passages and creating thick, dry mucus. The use of a cool-mist humidifier in your infant's bedroom or nursery adds moisture to the room air, and can help keep your baby more comfortable. Clean and dry the humidifier each day to avoid infecting the room air with mold or bacteria. The use of hot water vaporizers is not recommended due to safety concerns with hot, scalding water.
Sometimes infant cold symptoms are caused by the respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV. Most children get infected with RSV at some point, and recover without incurring a serious infection. However, premature or young infants, or children with a health condition that impacts the immune system, heart or lungs are more likely to develop a severe lung infection as a consequence of RSV.
If your baby has cold symptoms along with fever, pale skin color, wheezing, poor appetite or decreased activity, or if you are concerned about your infant's cold symptoms, contact his pediatrician right away. Seek immediate care if your child has difficulty breathing. Cold and cough medications should not be used in children younger than 4, as they can cause serious harm. Also, fever or pain relievers should not be given to infants unless specifically approved by the child's pediatrician.
Reviewed by Kay Peck, MPH RD
- World Health Organization: Cough and Cold Remedies for the Treatment of Acute Respiratory Infections in Young Children
- Clinical and Translational Immunology: Maternal and Infant Infections Stimulate a Rapid Leukocyte Response in Breastmilk
- American Academy of Pediatrics: RSV: When It's More Than Just a Cold
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Respiratory Syncytial Infection (RSV)