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Colds (Baby and infant)

 

Condition
Colds (Baby and Infant)
Class
Respiratory system
Description
A cold or common cold is caused by a virus that infects the respiratory tract. It can affect the nose, sinuses, throat and airways. Colds are very common and most frequently occur in the winter time, although your baby or infant may still catch colds in the warmer months. Children catch more colds than adults, averaging about six colds a year.
Causes
There are hundreds of different viruses that cause the common cold. The most common viruses belong to groups of viruses known as rhinoviruses or coronaviruses. As there are so many viruses and because the viruses constantly change, the body's immune system is unable to recognise each new virus, which is why people catch colds year after year.

The viruses that cause the common cold are spread from one person to another in the minute water droplets carried in the air when someone coughs or sneezes. The virus can also be spread by touch or by handling objects that have recently been touched by someone already infected with the cold virus. People are most infectious when they show the first signs of a cold developing.

Whichever way the virus is transmitted, it enters the nose and attacks the lining of the nasal passages, causing them to become inflamed and producing the symptoms of a cold.
Symptoms
A blocked and runny nose is the most common symptom of a cold, accompanied by tiredness and a general impression of being unwell. Babies may have difficulty in breast-feeding or bottle-feeding because of a blocked nose, and infants may lose their appetite. The child may have a raised temperature and cough, and infants may complain about a sore throat and headache.

The symptoms of a cold usually begin 2 to 3 days after becoming infected and last for 2 to14 days. Most children recover from a cold within a week.
Treatment
There is no cure for the common cold and there is no vaccine to prevent colds.

Antibiotics do not work against the viruses that cause colds, although antibiotics may be used if the baby or infant subsequently develops a bacterial infection that causes bronchitis or an ear infection.

Although there is no cure for the common cold, treating the symptoms can bring relief while the child's immune system fights the virus. Medicines such as paediatric formulations of paracetamol and ibuprofen can ease the aches and pains, and reduce fever. Aspirin and aspirin-based products should not be given to children under 16 years of age.

Decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine, oxymetazoline and xylometazoline, should not be used in babies and infants. Vapour rubs or inhalations containing menthol and essential oils may be applied to a baby's or infant's clothing to help ease nasal congestion. Soothing cough remedies containing glyerol, honey and lemon may help ease a cough.
When to see your pharmacist
Many of the traditional cough and cold medicines are no longer supplied from supermarkets or other non-pharmacy outlets and are available only from local pharmacies following a review of the safety of the use of these medicines in children.

Cough and cold remedies containing antihistamines, antitussives, expectorants or decongestants are not suitable for children under 6 years of age. Children under 6 years of age suffering from a cough or a cold may be given medicines containing paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower a raised temperature, or if they have a cough may be given soothing cough medicines containing glycerol, honey or lemon.

If your baby has difficulty in feeding because of a blocked nose, your pharmacist will be able to provide nose drops containing saline that will help. Vapour rubs and inhalant decongestants may be applied to the baby's clothing to help clear a blocked nose.

Always tell your pharmacist your child's age and describe your child's symptoms so the pharmacist will be able to recommend the most suitable product.
When to see your doctor
Cold symptoms usually disappear within a week and it is not normally necessary for your child to see a doctor unless there are other complications or if symptoms do not ease within a week. The production of green or yellow mucus suggests a bacterial infection has developed as a result of the initial cold, and if this affects the chest or ears see your doctor as a course of antibiotics may be necessary. In children, signs of more serious infection include wheezing, persistent earache, fast or difficult breathing, persistent high temperature, drowsiness and chest pain. Babies and infants with a very high temperature should see the doctor. If your baby or infant is refusing to drink or is showing signs of suspected meningitis you should seek medical advice immediately.
Living with a cold
When cold symptoms are at their worst it is import your child rests to help its immune system fight the virus. Allow your child to rest, avoid over exertion and to get as much sleep as possible. Keep your child warm and stay in a room that has a constant temperature. If you have to take your baby or infant out, wrap them up warmly. It is easy to forget that a baby lying still in a push chair can get cold quickly. Give your child plenty to drink to replace body fluids lost by sweating. If you smoke, do not do so in your child's presence.

Give your infant tissues to use, rather than handkerchiefs, for nose blowing and for trapping coughs and sneezes to reduce the risk of spreading the cold virus to others. Dispose of the tissues in a waste paper bin. Encourage your infant to wash hands frequently throughout the day to reduce the spread of the virus by contact with surfaces.

If necessary, treat symptoms with the medicines described above. If your child develops signs of a bacterial infection or has signs of a serious infection, see your doctor.
Useful Tips
  • Give your baby or infant plenty to drink
  • Do not give your baby or infant medicines used for other family members
  • Allow your baby or infant to rest
  • Never smoke, or allow others to smoke, near your baby or infant


Reviewed on 22 June 2010


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