DR. DAWN HARPER COLDS IN BABIES
DR. DAWN HARPER | COLDS IN BABIES
COLDS IN BABIES
Why are colds more common in winter? Despite years of research we don’t really know why colds are more common in winter. Some scientists believe that it could be due to the fact that the cold virus survives best in low humidities and others believe it to be linked to increased stress levels lowering our immunity in the winter. Anecdotally it is usually put down to the fact that we mix indoors more during the winter, allowing the virus to spread more easily but this have never been proven.
How likely is it that my baby will get a cold? Why do babies and young children get so many colds? Adults can expect to get two or three colds a year but a baby’s immune system needs to develop and as it does so, it is normal for a baby to have nearer eight or ten colds in their first couple of years.
How will I know if they have one? A baby with a cold may have a temperature up to 38 degrees, a cough, red eyes and a runny nose. They are likely to be irritable and may be up a lot at night. Small babies can’t breathe through their noses when they’re all stuffed up, so often find it difficult to feed.
The symptoms may last for as long as 10 days.
DR. DAWN HARPER | COLDS IN BABIES 2/3
Is there a particular age that my baby/child will be most susceptible to colds? Young babies are the most susceptible to colds as their immune systems are not fully developed and I see another peak as they start nursery and are exposed to more bugs.
What should I do if my baby gets a cold? What is the best way to treat it? There is no miracle cure for the common cold, so all you can do is treat the symptoms as your
baby’s immune system fights the virus. Small babies can’t communicate how they are feeling, so I am a great believer in regular paracetamol – it’s better to keep the temperature down than wait for them to become miserable again before giving another dose. Cold symptoms are generally worse at night when your baby is lying down breathing dry centrally heated air. Menthol drops on the mattress will ease their breathing and propping up the mattress by placing a rolled up towel under the top end will help. You can create a steamy atmosphere which eases a blocked nose by boiling a kettle in the room and if you have radiators on cover them with warm damp tea towels.
How do I know that it is just a cold and not something more serious? Should I see a doctor if my baby shows cold like symptoms? Your baby’s first cold can be daunting and you will probably want to ask your GP to check them out so that you can be sure about the diagnosis and what treatment to give. Thereafter you should consult your doctor if your baby: • Has a temperature above 39 degrees • Cannot sleep because of the cough • Becomes short of breath • Develops a blue tinge to his skin • Becomes floppy and listless • Shows no signs of improvement after a few days
Is there anything that I can do to stop my baby from getting a cold – any treatments or measures I can take? Breastfed
antibodies in the breast milk which gives some protection from coughs and colds and keeping very small babies away from people suffering with a cold is a good idea but I’m afraid it is inevitable that your baby will catch some colds.
Am I more susceptible to colds if I am pregnant or have just given birth? Your immune system can be a bit low during pregnancy which may leave you prone to more infections and they may linger for longer too
Is there anything I can do to stop myself from getting a cold? Get as much rest as you can during pregnancy. It is normal to feel tired at times when you are pregnant and this can have a bad effect on your immune system. Drink plenty of fluids especially fruit juices rich in vitamin C and eat a well balanced diet. Your five portions of fruit and vegetables a day are more important than ever when you are pregnant. Exercising when pregnant can be more difficult but even gentle exercise will help boost your immune system. It is worth avoiding people with coughs and colds where possible too.
What are your top tips for treating a cold or preventing it? • Eat a well balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables • Take offers of help – rest is really important • Drink plenty of fluids • Avoid people with coughs and colds • Take regular gentle exercise to boost your immune system D
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DR. DAWN HARPER | COLDS IN BABIES 3/3