sleeping baby in moms arms
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Skip the Cold Medicine

Babies get sick a lot. During their first year, most have as many as seven colds -- that’s a lot of runny noses and sleepless nights. How can you help your infant? Over-the-counter cold medicines aren’t recommended for children under 2, but a few all-natural remedies can help ease your little one’s symptoms and make you both feel better.

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baby drinking water
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Give Plenty of Fluids

This thins mucus, and that can help with a stuffy nose. It also keeps her from getting dehydrated. Offer your baby breast milk or formula often. Don’t give her sodas or juices -- they’re high in sugar. How can you tell if she’s sipping enough? Check that her urine is light in color. If it’s dark, encourage her to drink more.

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clean baby nose
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Suction Out the Snot

Your baby is stuffed up, but he can’t blow his nose yet. A bulb syringe can clear out the mucus. To use it, squeeze the bulb and put about a quarter- to a half-inch of the syringe into one nostril. Let go of the bulb to create a suction. Take out the syringe, and squeeze the bulb to put the mucus into a tissue. Wash the syringe with soap and water after using it.  You can also use a nasal aspirator -- an electric version.

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saline drops for baby
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Use Saline Drops

A nasal rinse can help ease your baby’s congestion because it loosens the thick mucus that’s clogging her nose. Look for over-the-counter saline drops or sprays, or make your own: Stir a half-teaspoon of table salt into a cup of warm water. Lay your little one on her back, and use a dropper to put two or three drops into each nostril. Wipe away any mucus, or use a bulb syringe or nasal aspirator to suction it out.

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rolled towel
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Prop Up His Bed

To help your baby sleep better at night, raise the head of his bed. This puts gravity on his side and helps drain the mucus, so he can breathe easier. You can put a few books or a rolled-up towel under the mattress to lift one side up a few inches. Never use pillows to prop him up -- they raise the chance of suffocation or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

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chicken soup
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Serve Chicken Soup

Grandma was right: Chicken soup does help you feel better. Research shows it works in more ways than one. The nutrients in the ingredients, like chicken and veggies, ease the inflammation that causes many cold symptoms. And sipping the warm broth can thin mucus and clear up congestion. If your baby’s new to solids, blend the soup to make a puree or just use the broth.

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Run a Humidifier

Moisture in the air can help with coughing and stuffiness. To keep your baby safe, use a cool-mist humidifier. The steam and hot water from other versions can lead to burns. It’s also important to change the water daily, and clean it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. This keeps mold and bacteria from growing inside.

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steamy shower
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Create a Steam Room

If your baby is stuffed up, try making your own steam room. Run a hot shower with the bathroom door closed, so the room fills with steam. Then sit with your little one for 10 to 15 minutes. Bring books or toys to keep her busy. Breathing in the warm, moist air will help clear the blockages. A good time to do this is right before bed, so she’ll fall asleep easier.

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Clear Out the Smoke

Chalk up one more reason secondhand smoke isn’t good for a child: It can make his cold worse by irritating his throat and nose. In fact, kids who breathe in secondhand smoke have a harder time getting over colds. They’re also more likely to have bronchitis or pneumonia. Stay away from places with cigarette smoke, and ask that no one smoke inside your home.

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mom kissing napping baby
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Encourage Rest

Sleep is key for a healthy immune system. It can help your baby fight off that cold virus. To help her get a good night’s rest, clear out the mucus with saline drops and a bulb syringe before naps and at bedtime. And give her lots of cuddles. Your touch may ease the discomfort and help her feel more relaxed.

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sponge bath for baby
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Try a Sponge Bath

A lukewarm sponge bath can help soothe a feverish baby and may bring down his temperature by a few degrees. Fill a tub with an inch or two of slightly warm water, and use a sponge or washcloth to wipe him down. Don’t use cold water, ice, or alcohol. If he’s chilly, take him out of the bath.

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baby eating veggies
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Offer Healthy Foods

The saying “feed a cold, starve a fever” only got it half right. Little bodies need the energy from food to fight off that cold, and certain nutrients can strengthen the immune system. If your baby is eating solid food, give her meals that have protein, vegetables, and healthy fat. If you’re breastfeeding, keep it up. Breast milk protects against the germs that cause colds.

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Give an Older Baby a Little Honey

If your child is over a year old, a spoonful of this can calm a nighttime cough. One study found that sick kids coughed less and slept better after a teaspoon and a half of the golden stuff at bedtime. But you shouldn’t give him honey if he isn’t 1 yet. It’s not recommended for younger babies because it may lead to a dangerous illness called botulism in infants.

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baby at doctor
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When to Call Your Doctor

Sometimes a cold leads to more serious conditions. Call your pediatrician if your baby is younger than 3 months and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 F or higher or is fussy and not drinking. If he’s older, call a doctor if his ears hurt or if he has breathing trouble, a cough for longer than a week, or mucus that’s still there after 10-14 days. Also reach out if his fever is above 100.4 F for more than 3 days or goes higher than 104.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 10/13/2019 Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 13, 2019


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Joy Weydert, M.D., professor, integrative medicine and pediatrics, University of Kansas; vice chairwoman, American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Integrative Medicine.

Mayo Clinic: “Common Cold in Babies,” “When Should I Use a Cool-Mist Humidifier Versus a Warm-Mist Humidifier For a Child With a Cold?”

FDA: “Use Caution When Giving Cough and Cold Medicine to Kids.”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Simple Remedies Often Best for Common Colds in Young Children,” “How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained,” “American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Safe Sleep Recommendations to Protect Against SIDS, Sleep-Related Infant Deaths,” “Treating a Fever Without Medicine.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Childhood Respiratory Infections and Other Illnesses.”

University of California, Los Angeles: “An Inside Scoop on the Science Behind Chicken Soup.”

Chest: “Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis in Vitro,” “Effects of Drinking Hot Water, Cold Water, and Chicken Soup on Nasal Mucus Velocity and Nasal Airflow Resistance.”

Stanford Children’s Health: “Upper Respiratory Infection (URI or Common Cold).”

Pediatrics: “Effect of Honey on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study,” “Skin-to-Skin Contact is Analgesic in Healthy Newborns.”

Pflugers Archiv: “Sleep and Immune Function.”

American Journal of Nutrition: “Nutrition and the Immune System: An Introduction.”

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 13, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.