By Heather Pohlabel
Your baby is coughing and has runny nose. She may also have a low fever, a sore throat, be sneezing, or seem lethargic. You are probably looking at the start of an upper respiratory infection. Children on average suffer five to ten upper respiratory infections every year, and for children who are around other children more often, such as in day cares or schools, the rate goes up.
The first thing to do if you suspect your child has an upper respiratory infection is to see your pediatrician. While upper respiratory infections (URIs) are usually treated with over the counter medications, you want to make sure that the infection is not something else and that it is not severe. There are steroid and antibiotic treatments for more severe cases of URIs. Either way, be sure to consult a physician before you begin any round of treatment for any disease, including URIs.
It is important to keep your child hydrated. If your child is over a year old and drinking milk, cut back on the milk, as it is heavier and can contribute to congestion. Water and juices are best, especially orange juice with its healing Vitamin C! Keeping hydrated will help your child flush out the bad stuff and will keep the lining of her throat wet to help soothe coughing and itchy throat. Chicken noodle soup and broth are old school remedies that really do work. A warm bowl of chicken soup is calming and healthy at the same time.
Keep a humidifier running to keep nasal and throat passages moisturized. If you have several humidifiers, keep them running where your child is normally playing so that she can receive the benefit of the misty air. Keeping one on close to the bed is a good idea during the night as your baby is getting what she needs most for the treatment of any ailment - rest!
Stay out of dusty areas, avoid dusting or cleaning products, and kick back and relax with your baby! Rest is won't cure your baby's URI, but it will help you both to deal with it, and you will have some prime bonding time. Your baby may be very fussy throughout the course of a URI and the only way to get relief from her symptoms may be to sleep.
Each symptom of a URI is treatable:
For runny nose, use an antihistamine like Benadryl. For babies, you can use a nasal aspirator to remove drainage. Children will get sore noses with continued tissue use, so use a warm wash rag to clean under their noses and the sides of their noses instead of a tissue. You may also want to apply a little petroleum jelly so there is no "caking" of the drainage and to protect the skin. There is a brand of tissues with Aloe and lotion in them, and while these are more gentle on the nose, they can still make baby's nose sore, so take care when cleaning in that area.
For a stuffy nose, you can use a saline solution to rinse the nose out - these are sold over the counter. Use a warm air humidifier to loosen the dry drainage or a steam shower could help unclog the nasal passages as well. This will also loosen up phlegm in the throat, so your baby may have a hard time breathing for awhile after one of these treatments.
For a fever, use an acetaminophen like Tylenol. Motrin works well too. These also help to relieve any joint pain or discomfort felt from the URI. Many babies will sleep for extended periods of time if given Tylenol or Motrin, so be sure to ask your doctor how much to administer to avoid over medicating.
Keep your child away from other young children to prevent the spread of the URI. Children can pass the viruses back and forth.
To prevent URIs, practice good hygiene, especially hand washing. Drink plenty of fluids all the time, especially orange juice. Cover your mouth when you sneeze and cough, and wash your hands immediately. Always wash your hands before eating and after using the restroom. Clean your house often, making sure to disinfect bathrooms and kitchens well, and disinfect doorknobs and light switches as well. Keep Lysol or some other disinfectant spray handy to kill airborne germs.