A Guide to Baby Illnesses

Cold and Flu Comfort
Upper respiratory infections run rampant among the small set. The common cold and influenza (the flu) are two such conditions. With more than 200 different cold viruses floating around, it’s no wonder most babies will catch up to seven of them before their first birthday. There are only a few strains of the flu, which is why there’s a shot available for it-and babies 6 months and up can, and should, get it.

How It Looks: Babies with colds usually have stuffy or runny noses, beginning with a clear discharge that may become thicker and turn yellow or green, as well as coughing, sneezing, a sore throat (which may show up as a decrease in appetite) and/or a low-grade fever (under 102 degrees F). The flu is similar, but with a prolonged higher fever and more general discomfort. “The runny nose and cough arrive later and last longer, and secondary bacterial infections may occur more often with the flu,” adds Brown.

How to Deal: Try keeping baby upright as much as possible (you might let him sleep in an infant seat or place a pillow under the mattress to elevate the head, suggests Brown), running a humidifier to help loosen up mucus and/or using a little saline spray and bulb suction in the nose-but sparingly. Too much can cause irritation and increase congestion, Cohen explains. If your little one’s nasal passages are clogged, keep breast- or bottle-feedings shorter and more frequent, Cohen adds. For fever or general aches and pains, you can also give infant acetaminophen (Tylenol) to babies 3 months and older, and ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) to those 6 months and up. Never give babies aspirin or cold and cough medicine. Also, since several potentially serious illnesses can start off looking like a cold-including respiratory syncytial virus (see “RSV: Not Just a Cold”), croup and whooping cough (see “Concerning Coughs: Barking and Whooping”)-call your doctor at the first sign of any cold-like symptoms in infants under 3 months old, and any time you feel symptoms are severe or prolonged thereafter.