How to Keep Baby Healthy During Cold & Flu Season

My little guy was born in December, smack dab in the middle of the nasty cold and flu season. I was so paranoid to bring him anywhere and was so worried that he would get sick. He was my first child and I had no clue how to keep him healthy when there were so many germs everywhere! If I could have kept him in a protective little bubble, I would have.

Now I know better and realize that children have to be exposed to a certain amount of germs in order to build up their immune systems to help them fight off even scarier infections when they get older. That isn't to say that there aren't certain precautions we as mothers can take to keep our little ones healthy during their first cold and flu season.

Babies can get 8-10 colds each year before they turn two, even with perfectly healthy immune systems. Babies with school-aged siblings are even more likely to pick up a virus during the winter months because everyone stays inside and are in close contact with each other.

When to Call a Doctor If Baby is Sick

For the most part, colds will hang around for a week to ten days and just be a nuisance, but if your baby has any of these symptoms be sure to call a doctor or bring your child to the emergency room right away:

  • For babies younger than 3 months
    • A fever higher than 101.4 (100.4 rectally) 
    • Trouble breathing
    • Not eating or is vomiting
  • For children of any age
    • Rapid breathing or working hard to breathe
    • If lips look bluish
    • Coughing so hard they vomit or choke

Common Childhood Illnesses

The best defense is knowledge of your enemy, right?

  • The Common Cold (Rhinovirus)

The common cold is caused by a virus that affects the upper respiratory system (the throat and nose). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults get two or three colds per year while children get more. In fact, the Mayo Clinic says babies can get as many as seven colds during their first year of life, and babies who go to daycare centers may get more. Babies haven’t developed immunity to the viruses that cause colds so they are more susceptible.

    • What Happens During a Cold?

Approximately 100 viruses can cause the symptoms of a cold. The viruses enter babies’ bodies through contact with an infected person, through droplets of body fluids in the air or by touching a contaminated surface. 
Symptoms of a cold in babies may include:

• A runny nose,
• Fever,
• Nasal congestion,
• Sneezing,
• Difficulty nursing or decreased appetite,
• Irritability,
• Trouble sleeping,
• Sore or scratchy throat,
• Cough.

    • When to See a Doctor

Since it’s a virus, there not a lot a doctor can do for a baby’s cold. Symptoms in most babies should improve in 10 to 14 days. However, colds can be especially dangerous for young babies who are at risk of developing pneumonia or croup.

Babies under 3 months of age should see a doctor early in the illness. Other signs that indicate you should take your baby to the doctor include:

• A fever higher than 100.4°F,
• Red eyes or yellow/green eye discharge,
• Decreased wet diapers,
• Difficulty breathing,
• A persistent cough,
• Thick, green nasal discharge.

    • Home Remedies

To help you baby feel better, make sure he or she drinks plenty of fluids and keep the air in your home moist. A humidifier can help in diffusing essential oils like lavender and peppermint oil, which are good for fighting a cold. Try to search for the best essential oil brands, which will suit your little one. You can also try to thin the nasal mucus using over-the-counter saline drops or remove it using a baby nasal aspirator to remove mucus from the nasal passage.

    • How to Prevent Colds?

Colds are really contagious and spread by close contact. Make sure to wash your hands before feeding or touching babies. Because babies tend to put everything in their mouths, it's important to keep their hands washes as well. Keep your baby away from people who are sick and clean toys and pacifiers often.

  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Most children will have had RSV by their 2nd birthday. The virus causes an infection of the lungs and lower respiratory system. In healthy children, RSV is usually a mild illness; in premature babies or those with compromised immune systems or other health conditions, RSV can be a serious health threat. According to the CDC, nearly 60,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized each year due to RSV.

My poor sick girl

    • What are the Symptoms of RSV?

For most babies, symptoms are not unlike those of a cold. Infants may experience:

• Mild fever of less than 101°F,
• A runny nose,
• Cough,
• A sore throat,
• Poor appetite,
• Irritability.

In severe cases, babies might experience:

• A high fever of more than 103°F,
• Wheezing,
• Caving in of the chest between and under the ribs,
• Rapid breathing and shortness of breath,

    • What's the treatment for RSV?

Because RSV is a virus, oral antibiotics are not an effective treatment option. RSV can last quite a long time and some babies may still have symptoms up to two weeks later. Doctors recommend supportive care at home for most babies with RSV. For children with medical conditions and infants under 3 months old, RSV can lead to viral pneumonia or more severe respiratory conditions like bronchiolitis so it is important to see a doctor early. A nebulizer with medication may be prescribed to help babies breathe easier. In the most severe cases, hospitalization may be required where IV drugs and oxygen can be provided.

    • Home Remedies

Just like with a cold, keeping your baby hydrated and comfortable are the best treatments for RSV. Offer plenty of fluids and make certain your baby is nursing adequately. If the number of wet diapers decreases, your baby may be at risk for dehydration. Try suctioning your baby’s nose before feedings to make nursing or bottle feeding easier. To relieve fever, over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help.

    • How to Prevent RSV

RSV is highly contagious and is easily spread from person to person. Babies who spend time in daycare are especially prone to contracting the virus. Don’t let babies share bottles, pacifiers or sippy cups with other children. Wash your hands and your baby’s hands frequently. Use soap and wash for at least 20 seconds under running water.

  • Gastroenteritis (Stomach bug)

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the digestive system and is caused by a virus, bacteria or parasite. In the United States, Rotavirus and Adenovirus commonly cause digestive discomfort among babies and children.

Symptoms of gastroenteritis can vary depending on the type of bug that causes the illness and the child who contracts it. Symptoms might include:

• Vomiting,
• Diarrhea,
• Abdominal cramps,
• Fever,
• Headache,
• Achy limbs,
• Lack of appetite.

    • When to See a Doctor

While gastroenteritis is unpleasant, symptoms usually improve in a few days without medical intervention. The biggest concern with gastroenteritis in infants is dehydration. Dehydration occurs when food and/or liquid intake decreases, depriving the body of nutrients and water. Symptoms of dehydration include:

• Decreased urine output
• Dry mouth, tongue, and lips,
• Decreased tears during crying,
• Sunken eyes or fontanel (soft spot on head),
• Weakness and irritability,
• Drowsiness,
• Cold hands and feet,
• Fast, shallow breathing.

If you think your infant is dehydrated, contact your doctor immediately. You should also seek a doctor’s advice if your child is under six months of age and has gastroenteritis, if your child runs a fever greater than 103 degrees F, if the diarrhea is bloody or if your child’s condition doesn’t improve in three-to-four days.

    • Home Remedies

If they will, breastfed babies should be allowed to nurse normally. Formula-fed babies should take formula at half-strength for two to three feedings after abdominal upset starts. Depending on the age and condition of your baby, your doctor may advise you to give extra water or electrolyte drinks like Pedialyte. Older children should be allowed to eat solid foods once they tolerate clear liquids without vomiting or diarrhea. Start with the “BRAT” diet which includes soft, mild foods that help the gastrointestinal system recover from the illness.

    • How to Prevent Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is caused by a wide variety of viruses which can be shared from person to person. Wash your hands and your child’s hands frequently. You should also wash your child’s toys and pacifier regularly, and don’t let your baby eat after other children. Gastroenteritis can also be a result of food poisoning which occurs from bacteria in food.

  • Fevers

Researchers estimate roughly one-third of clinic visits and calls to pediatricians’offices are due to fevers. Parents are understandably worried when their babies spike fevers and are fussy or irritable. But in many respects, fevers are good. Fevers are your baby’s natural response to fighting an infection. From a physiological standpoint, a fever helps the body kill bacteria and viruses that can make you sick.

However, fevers often occur without other symptoms like nasal congestion, diarrhea or vomiting, and low-grade fevers can be a side effect of teething or immunizations. Therefore, it’s difficult for many parents to determine how to treat a fever in a baby.

Here's a handy little infographic to help determine what should be done for fevers in children:

  • Sore Throat

Sore throats are not only a pain. They can be caused by many different factors.
That means it’s sometimes confusing whether that hurt is simply a sore throat caused by a cold or strep throat. In this infographic, Cleveland Clinic’s family medicine expert Daniel Allan, MD, explains how your doctor can spot strep based on a defined set of characteristics.

  • Having acetaminophen on hand for fevers and aches will really help. 
  • A cool mist humidifier keeps the air moist and helps break up congestion. 
  • A room-temperature (not cold) bath can help bring down high fevers. 
  • Popsicles (frozen electrolyte solutions work best) can help with dehydration, sore throat, and fevers.
  • Another item you should definitely have in your "Sick Bag" is a baby nasal aspirator. Most parents have the bulb syringe from the hospital after their baby is born - but an electric nasal aspirator is so much easier to use.

I recently had the chance to work with BabySmile to review one of their Baby Nasal Aspirators. 

My littlest one got hit with a nasty cold this past week and has had a bad cough, runny nose, and sore throat. The S-502 Aspirator really helped clear her nasal passages so she could breathe better, helping to improve her sleep and her appetite. She's already feeling much better.

Although it may be a bit bulky for home use, the BabySmile Baby Nasal Aspirator works great and would make a wonderful addition to any pediatric office and even daycares. It's really easy to use - just hook up the tube, run a little bit of water through it to moisten the inside and to keep mucus from sticking in the tube, and then turn it on. Use your finger on the tip to judge the suction power - you can adjust the knob on the until for more or less suction. Then insert the soft tip into the child's nostril and let it work its magic!

BabySmile S-502 is a medical device approved by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Today, the use of a power-operated nasal aspirator in the home is very popular in Japan, and BabySmile S-502 is the pioneer of this emerging technology. It has been ranked as the #2 best-selling product in the “Nasal Aspirator” category on, second only to the traditional nasal aspirator powered by manual mouth suctioning. BabySmile S-502 also won a “Kids Design Award” in 2015 for its impressive sales record and social impact. Since it’s power-operated, mucus can be suctioned thoroughly, even at home. The baby-friendly silicone tip, which touches the baby’s nostril, is very soft and BPA free. The suction power can be adjusted to three levels, and the parts can be washed easily with water after use. BabySmile S-502 is mom-friendly and is a major time-saver for busy moms.

Find out more about the BabySmile S-502 at

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