Unfortunately, there's no cure for the common cold. Antibiotics don't work against cold viruses. The best you can do is take steps at home to try to make your baby more comfortable, such as suctioning mucus from his or her nose and keeping the air moist. Call the doctor early in the illness if your baby is younger than 3 months old.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications should generally be avoided in infants. Fever-reducing medications may be safely used — carefully following dosing directions — if fever is making your child uncomfortable. Cough and cold medications are not safe for infants and young children.
OTC pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may help relieve discomfort associated with a fever. Don't give acetaminophen to children under 3 months of age, and be especially careful when giving acetaminophen to older babies and children because the dosing guidelines can be confusing. Call your doctor if you have any questions about the right dosage for your baby.
Ibuprofen (Children's Motrin, Advil, others) also is OK, but only if your child is 6 months old or older.
Do not give these medications to your baby if he or she is dehydrated or vomiting continuously.
Though aspirin is approved for use in children older than age 2, children and teenagers recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms should never take aspirin. This is because aspirin has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition, in such children. Since many viral illnesses look alike at the beginning, it is better to avoid aspirin use in children.
Cough and cold medications
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strongly recommends against giving over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines to children younger than age 2. OTC cough and cold medicines don't treat the underlying cause of a child's cold and won't make it go away sooner. These medications also have potential side effects, including rapid heart rate and convulsions.
In June 2008, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association voluntarily modified consumer product labels on OTC cough and cold medicines to state "do not use" in children under 4 years of age, and many companies have stopped manufacturing these products for young children.
May 29, 2013
- Kliegman RM, et al. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-6/0/1608/0.html. Accessed March 7, 2013.
- Long SS, et al. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 4th ed. St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier Saunders; 2012. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/page.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4377-2702-9..00301-9&isbn=978-1-4377-2702-9&uniqId=399011628-4#4-u1.0-B978-1-4377-2702-9..00301-9. Accessed March 7, 2013.
- Children's OTC cough and cold medicines. Consumer Healthcare Products Association. http://chpa-info.org/issues/Childrens_CC_Overview.aspx. Accessed March 11, 2013.
- When to call the baby's doctor: Print-and-go guide. National Women's Health Information Center. http://search.hhs.gov/search?q=When+to+call+a+baby%27s+doctor&btnG.x=0&btnG.y=0&site=oash_wh&entqr=3&ud=1&sort=date%3AD%3AL%3Ad1&output=xml_no_dtd&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&lr=lang_en&client=oash_wh&proxystylesheet=oash_wh&proxyreload=1. Accessed March 7, 2013.
- Facts about the common cold. American Lung Association. http://www.lungusa.org/lung-disease/influenza/in-depth-resources/facts-about-the-common-cold.html. Accessed March 7, 2013.
- Symptom relief. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/antibiotic-use/symptom-relief.html. Accessed March 7, 2013.