Cold in the baby


When the baby is sick for the first time and has a cold, many new parents feel very heavy. However, a cold is part of growing and maturing, because every cold strengthens the baby's immune system, which is equipped with only more than half of its later immune system at birth and has to learn the rest through contact with pathogens such as the cold viruses.

Is a cold dangerous for my baby?

The harmless cold pathogens train the immune system so that over time it can cope with worse pathogens that the child will encounter in the course of his life.
It usually affects babies between the third and sixth month of life with a so-called infection, often when the breastfeeding period ends. Babies receive important antibodies through breast milk during breastfeeding. Antibodies are our body's defense mechanism against viruses and bacteria. They are specially tailored to each pathogen, identify it and make it visible to our immune system by marking it. With breast milk, a baby benefits from its mother's antibodies, since its own body has not yet encountered all the pathogens and thus has not been able to form protective antibodies.
At the latest when the baby begins to explore its environment and put various things in its mouth, the encounter with many pathogens occurs. Up to 10 infections per year are considered perfectly fine for newborns, while that is an enormous number for adults.

When should you see a doctor with the baby?

Mothers should most likely trust their gut feelings or intuition on this point. Hardly any pediatrician will resent the mother if she worries about her child and therefore wants a clarification.

An absolute visit to the doctor is necessary if there is a noticeable change in the nature of the child. Eating or drinking behavior changes drastically.
A reduced excretion of urine or stool can also be a justified reason to see a pediatrician. If the child suffers from a fever that cannot be controlled with common medication such as Nurofen, a visit to the doctor is also recommended.

In addition, the doctor should be consulted if the same complaints or symptoms occur again and again.
All in all, diagnosing babies or toddlers is very difficult, as they cannot provide any information about the extent of the complaints and the nature of the complaints. Many of the clues that apply to adults or older children in order to exclude or detect dangerous diseases cannot be applied to small children and toddlers, as they would give false positive or false negative results.

How long does a cold last in a baby?

As with adults, it is difficult to give a general statement about the duration of the illness with babies. This is essentially dependent on two factors: On the one hand, on the immune situation of the child and, on the other hand, on the "aggressiveness" of the causative agent.

The child's immune situation correlates more or less with the age of the child. The younger, the more immature the immune system and the more frequent and protracted the colds that occur. Only in the course of life does the immune system know the typical pathogens and is able to take action against them faster and more efficiently.

The aggressiveness of the pathogen mainly depends on how flexible it is in its structure. The immune system is only able to fight what it knows. If the pathogen changes again and again, it cannot be fought sufficiently by the body's own defense cells.

In short: As a rough rule of thumb, you can assume that the common cold will usually end within one to two weeks. However, a decrease in any fever that may have occurred can usually be observed a few days in advance.
However, if the disease continues for more than two weeks, a doctor should be consulted so that a blood sample can be used to check the immune system.


The cause of a cold, both in adults and in babies, is the common cold viruses, which comprise a group of over 200 different viruses, all of which cause inflammation of the mucous membranes of the airways. The viruses prefer the 33 ° C warm and humid climate of our mucous membranes of the respiratory tract to nestle there and multiply in the mucous membranes, which in turn makes people sick and activates their immune system.

Infants can get infected with the so-called RSV virus (respiratory syncytial virus) are associated with particularly serious infections, which not infrequently require treatment as part of a hospital stay. The main route of transmission of all pathogens are the small, infected droplets of liquid that get into the surrounding air when a sick person coughs or sneezes and are then inhaled by other people. In addition, the viruses can stick to hands or objects and can also be transmitted from person to person. The time between infection and the onset of symptoms is usually three to five days.

Read more on the topic: Causes of a cold


The symptoms of a cold in a baby are similar to those of an adult, so the diagnosis is usually easy to make based on the symptoms. Infants are also plagued by coughs, runny nose, fever and sore throats. The lymph nodes under the armpits, on the neck or in the neck can also swell. This swelling is usually harmless and usually goes away by itself after the disease has progressed.

The swelling of the mucous membrane caused by the cold is extremely stressful for babies, as even a slight swelling in the small nose causes enormous constriction of the airways. Breathing or even drinking from the chest is extremely stressful for the baby and it is not uncommon for the baby to be overworked and they cannot drink enough and remain hungry. In the case of fever, temperatures above 38 ° C are a sure warning sign of illness, with the normal range of body temperature depending on the time of day between 36.5 ° C and 37.2 ° C. Up to 38.5 ° C one speaks of an elevated temperature, then of fever at all temperatures above. In babies under three months of age, the reaction should start at 37.8 ° C. Temperatures above 39 ° C are rare with a cold and should rather suggest a real flu, otitis media or other illnesses that require treatment.

Also read our topics:

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  • Cough in baby


Fever is a normal and physiological response of the body to infection. To fight viruses or bacteria, the immune system releases so-called interleukins. These are messenger substances that attract immune cells to the site of the infection. However, a certain messenger substance in the brain also ensures that the target body temperature increases. Usually this is around 36.5 degrees Celsius. However, it can now be raised to 38 degrees or even higher thanks to the messenger substance.

Typically, the result is chills. By increasing the target temperature, the body is suggested that it is hypothermic. To counteract this condition, the muscles begin to tremble, which leads to the generation of heat in the body.

Read more on the topic: Fever in baby


Vomiting is a symptom that can be caused by a coughing fit, for example, in the case of a cold. However, parents should be vigilant. Does vomiting occur specifically after meals? What is the color of the vomit?
As long as the baby's general condition does not deteriorate noticeably, vomiting need not be a cause for concern. Only if the drinking behavior also worsens or the baby is no longer able to take in more fluid than is vomited should a doctor or hospital be consulted to prevent the child from "drying out" by giving the child intravenous fluids is fed.

Read more on the topic: Vomiting in the baby


Distinguishing diarrhea from normal bowel movements can be difficult, especially in babies whose main food is breast milk, since normal bowel movements can be very soft and liquid anyway.
Changes can be more easily recognized in the color and smell of the stool.
As a rule, diarrhea is caused by a lack of water reabsorption in the intestine. The causes for this can be varied. However, during a cold the baby is most likely to drink more. The pathogens of the common cold can also spread in the intestine and hinder the mucous membrane cells of the intestine from absorbing water, so that more fluid remains in the intestine and thus also in the stool.

Read more on the topic: Diarrhea in the baby

Bonded eyes

In principle, there are two main explanations for this described symptom of a cold, but they all have different consequences. The more harmless explanation is the narrowing of the tear duct. Usually the tears are drained into the nose through a small channel in the inner corner of the eye. If you have a cold, the swelling of the mucous membrane in the nose can cause the mucous membrane within the tear duct to thicken and the tear fluid can no longer drain away. In this case, children's nose drops can cause swelling, which clears the canal again. The bonds can be washed out with a compress or a cotton swab and warm water.

The more critical possibility is the presence of conjunctivitis. The baby may have rubbed mucus contaminated with viruses into their eyes, leading to an infection that, in the case of conjunctivitis, also bacteria. But then the eye is also very much reddened.
In the latter case, the pediatrician should definitely be consulted, who can prescribe appropriate eye drops or ointments.

Read more about this: Conjunctivitis in the baby


The infections cannot usually be prevented, but they are treated well and some home remedies can at least alleviate the baby's symptoms. The infection takes time and during this time it is important to give the baby as much rest as possible.

Against the swelling of the nasal mucous membranes, warm vapors similar to inhalation in adults are suitable. A drop of breast milk in the nostrils is also said to support the swelling of the nose through the components of the immune system it contains. Nasal sprays can also bring relief and make it easier for the baby to breathe. In this case, the mucous membrane-constricting nasal drops should not be used as in adults, but only drops that only contain saline solution. Nourishing ointments can support the sore nose. Since the child cannot simply blow their nose like an adult in order to clear their nose, small nasal aspirators from the pharmacy can also be used to free the child from the secretion.

If you also have a cough, walks in the fresh air are often very soothing. In the apartment, the humidity can be increased, for example, with wet towels over the heater or specially created air humidifiers. The coughed up mucus is usually clear in a normal cold. If it turns yellow or green, a doctor should be consulted, as this discoloration can indicate a bacterial cause which must then be treated with an antibiotic. In acute coughing attacks, cool air helps and walking to an open window or the refrigerator helps the coughing infant to overcome the attack. It is important to make sure that the baby is still wrapped up cozy and warm and not freezing.

Especially if you have a fever, you must ensure that you drink enough water, which can often turn out to be extremely difficult due to the exertion of drinking. If drinking is no longer sufficient to keep the baby's fluid balance in equilibrium, the common cold also leads to hospitalization in persistent cases, during which the fluid must be given as an infusion. Dry diapers can indicate that the amount of water is too small if the child is not producing enough urine due to the lack of fluids.

In addition to this sign, there are other signs that should lead to a doctor's visit. These include a high fever, a complete refusal to drink, extreme fatigue, visible breathing problems, a cold over 5 days and persistent cough. A visit to a doctor can also rule out other diseases such as otitis media, sinus infections or even pneumonia, which urgently require antibiotic treatment.

Read more on the topic: Treating a cold

In the case of a strong cough, parents should definitely consult a doctor in order to rule out a possible cause that requires treatment. Steam inhalations can also be helpful for solving the cough and clearing the airways. However, essential oils should not be mixed in as these can cause allergies in children. The best way to do this is to stand with the child next to the running shower. The water should never be very hot so as not to cause burns to the airways. If you have a fever, fever suppositories can be used from 3 months of age. It is essential to administer the dose as prescribed by the doctor, because the dose for adults would be much too high for the child. Most preparations such as ibuprofen also have special forms for children. However, the fever should not always be lowered immediately, as it is extremely important for the body to heal itself and lowering the fever may delay healing and the infection heals more slowly.

Read more on the topic: What to do if my baby has a cold

Home remedies

With home remedies, the symptoms accompanying the common cold are primarily treated as the actual pathogen. In the case of colds, the pathogens that cause the disease are usually viruses.
Only zinc has been shown to have a virus-killing effect, although opinions are divided as to whether zinc should be used as a home remedy.
However, onions, garlic, chamomile tea, salt water (for steam inhalation!) And ginger are available to relieve symptoms.
Except for the salt water, all of these agents are said to have an anti-inflammatory and calming effect, which can be used, for example, for sore throats or mild earaches.

With chamomile tea and salt water, the little ones can inhale by breathing in the hot water vapor. However, care should be taken not to use water that is too hot in order to minimize the potential for additional irritation of the bronchi.

The anti-inflammatory tuberous growths can be used in shredded form, for example for earache, and are put into the ear from the outside. However, they can also be boiled down into a brew that can then be drunk to treat an irritated throat with a sore throat.

Will an onion help next to the bed?

Definitely no! For people who would like to believe that the onion has a positive effect on the course of the disease, it may have this effect. From a medical point of view, however, this measure is completely pointless. Apart from the smell of the onion, nothing will change in the room air.
The anti-inflammatory agents present in the onion can never reach a concentration high enough in the air to have an effect on the baby's cold.


The active ingredient aconite is often used as a homeopathic remedy when a cold begins. However, this treatment should be clarified with a doctor in order to find out whether the homeopathic remedy is really suitable and to rule out a potentially dangerous course of the disease.

Infections that the body's immune system cannot cope with without help usually require more than just homeopathic support in combating pathogens. Homeopathy should therefore rather be understood as a supplementary measure then as the sole therapy.

Preventing a cold in the baby

Prophylaxis is often not possible and usually not useful, as various colds are part of the normal maturation process of a child. If you still want to take care of your baby, for example when it has just overcome an infection, there are helpful behavioral tips, all of which ensure that the child has less contact with potential pathogens. Above all here your own hygiene. Regular and thorough hand washing reduces the chance of transmitting pathogens that are on your own hands to the child.

Toys and other objects that children often and happily put in their mouths can simply be washed or even disinfected regularly. Prevention is often more difficult with existing siblings. If you visit these daycare centers, kindergartens or schools, they are in the vast majority of cases the carrier of an infection. Cold viruses are particularly easily transmitted by sneezing or coughing. Here it is important not to bring sick siblings into contact with the baby as much as possible or at least not to cough them up and, above all, to pay attention to one's own hygiene between contacts with the individual children and to wash hands after each contact.

Read more on the topic: How can you prevent a cold?

You can do this to avoid infecting your baby with your own cold while breastfeeding

From a medical perspective, it is not known that breastfeeding leads to increased transmission of colds to the baby. Rather, breastfeeding offers the advantage that antibodies raised by the mother, which are directed against the virus causing the disease, can already be transferred to the child and thus have a better defense against the viruses that cause the disease.

Cold viruses are mainly transmitted through droplets. The nursing mother should therefore primarily pay attention to sufficient hygiene in order not to infect the baby. Specifically, this means washing your hands thoroughly after coughing or sneezing and cleaning objects touched with dirty hands, as the viruses can survive for a few hours in normal surroundings or on various surfaces.

If the mother would like to ensure special protection while breastfeeding, the nipples can be sprayed with a hand disinfectant and then wiped off before breastfeeding begins.

What can be done to prevent the baby from "catching" a cold from adults

The most decisive measure is to ensure adequate hygiene yourself. Regular and extensive hand washing and keeping the distance from the child as large as possible when coughing or sneezing are affordable measures for parents.

Viral colds are completely normal in babies and toddlers and basically cannot be prevented, no matter how hard the sick parents try. The child's immune system is not yet fully developed and therefore does not have much to oppose the disease.

Most of the viral colds are completely harmless to the child. There are vaccinations for children against potentially dangerous disease viruses, such as whooping cough pathogens, which can / should be used to prevent dangerous disease progression.

Should sick adults - after holding their hands up while coughing - touch a surface that can also be touched by their baby, a disinfectant can be used to prevent the virus from colonizing the surface.

Can you vaccinate a baby with a cold?

Babies should generally not be vaccinated if they are currently suffering from a cold. Unfortunately, there are few disease-free intervals in many babies and toddlers, so vaccinations often have to be postponed. But it is precisely in this fact that the reason for this lies. The immune system of the little ones is currently already weakened by the common cold and is therefore not able to react to certain vaccines.

When it comes to vaccines, a distinction can be made between dead vaccines and live vaccines. Live vaccines are only given by the treating pediatrician in the most extreme emergency during a cold, as they contain live viruses - albeit in very diluted quantities - to which the body has to react with the help of the immune system in order to prevent the outbreak of the disease against which it is vaccinated supposed to prevent.

Inactivated vaccines are less dangerous, but again most paediatricians will refrain from vaccination while the child is ill. These vaccines are casually “taken note of” by the body without an immune reaction taking place in order to kill pathogens.

Can you take the baby for a walk if he has a cold?

In principle, nothing speaks against taking the baby for a walk, even if he or she has a cold. The prerequisite, however, is that the baby does not become hypothermic, i.e. that it is dressed warm enough according to the outside temperature.

Since colds occur in the majority of cases in winter, the cool outside air is often even helpful. It ensures the swelling of the mucous membranes in the throat and nose area so that the children can breathe more freely again.

However, a fever should be an obstacle to a long walk. Since the temperature regulation in the child's body is not yet fully developed, too great a temperature difference could lead to stress development in the body, which tends to delay the baby's recovery process rather than having a positive effect on the course of the disease.

Preventing a cold in toddlers

Since the immune system in babies and toddlers is still developing and is therefore often not yet optimally developed, it can easily happen that the little ones have to go through up to twelve or more colds a year.

To prevent this, it is important to strengthen and support the immune system in small children. This is achieved on the one hand by promoting playing and romping outdoors and on the other hand by a balanced and vitamin-rich food supply.

It is also important for parents to pay attention to hand hygiene: regular hand washing with soap after the toilet, before eating, after playing outdoors and after returning from kindergarten can enable a large proportion of the viruses to be eliminated.

Regular ventilation of the main lounges can also serve to minimize viruses. You should also ensure that your feet are always dry and warm, as well as that your headgear is appropriate for the temperature, as children lose a lot of heat through their heads.