No parent likes to see a young child suffering with a cold, flu, or some other type of baby respiratory infection. It's a helpless feeling knowing your baby is miserable and there's little you and your pediatrician can do about it. There are actually several types of baby respiratory infections, and it is quite common for infants and toddlers to have several of these. Knowing a little more about them may enable you to help your child feel more comfortable when she's under the weather.
The Common Cold
Colds are highly contagious and can be very uncomfortable, but they generally go away on their own without prescription medication. Most of the time, pediatricians will advise parents to give their babies lots of liquids and possibly over-the-counter medications to relieve the stuffy noses. A cold differs from an allergy in that the mucus is typically thicker and yellow or greenish in color. You can help your baby get some relief by doing the following:
- Use a bulb syringe to clean out mucus.
- Gently squirt saline solution into baby's nose. She won't like it, but it will help!
- Give her lots of liquids.
- Keep her warm and dry.
- Give her lots of TLC!
If your child seems to keep a runny nose and itchy or watery eyes in the spring, summer, or fall, and the mucus remains clear, he may be suffering from an allergy instead of the common cold. What can you do about it? If you can't determine what he might be allergic to, then it is time for a visit to your pediatrician. Allergies aren't that common in babies, but if your child really appears to be suffering, your doctor may want to do a blood test or refer you to an allergist for a skin test. Once you've narrowed down the allergen, you and your doctor can come up with a treatment plan that may or may not include medication, but should help you determine how to rid your child's environment of the allergen.
A flu differs from a common cold in that your baby will be much sicker. He will probably run a fever, and he may also have an upset tummy and/or diarrhea. The most important thing you need to remember is to keep your child hydrated. Babies can become dehydrated very easily. If you suspect that your baby has the flu, contact your pediatrician. In the meantime, you might want to also do some of the following:
- Give him lots of liquids.
- Make sure he gets plenty of rest.
- Give over-the-counter medications under your doctor's guidance.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
RSV affects children in different ways depending on the location of the infection and the age of the child. Children who are older than three may only show signs of the common cold, while babies may suffer from a more severe case, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, which may require hospitalization for this baby respiratory infection. Premature infants are at the highest risk of contracting RSV. Depending on their size and health, it may be advised that they keep away from other children, especially those with colds, until they are a year old.
Infants who are hospitalized with RSV may have to be treated for several days to as much as three weeks. RSV is very contagious, but there are some precautions you can take to help reduce the risk of your baby contracting RSV.
- Be vigilent about washing your hands, and remind other caretakers of your baby to do so also.
- Wash your baby's hands often, since babies love to put their hands into their mouths.
- Avoid people who are sick as much as possible.
- If your child attends a daycare and there is a high incidence of RSV at a particular period of time, consider keeping him home for a while.
Finally, if you suspect that your child has RSV, contact your pediatrician. Baby respiratory infections are quite common, and you hate to see your little one suffer. Keep in close contact with your doctor, and give baby extra cuddle time with you!