There's no cure for the common cold. Antibiotics don't work against cold viruses. Try to make your baby more comfortable with measures such as suctioning nasal mucus and keeping the air moist.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications generally should be avoided in babies. You can use fever-reducing medications, carefully following dosing directions, if a fever is making your child uncomfortable. Cough and cold medications aren't safe for infants and young children.

Fever-reducing medications

OTC pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) might relieve discomfort associated with a fever. However, these medications don't kill the cold virus. Fever is a part of your child's natural response to the virus, so it may help to allow your child to have a low-grade 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 questions about the right dosage for your baby.

For treatment of fever or pain, consider giving your child infants' or children's over-the-counter fever and pain medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others).

Don't give these medications to your baby if he or she is dehydrated or vomiting continuously.

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.

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, and can be dangerous to your baby.

In June 2008, manufacturers removed infant cough and cold medications from the market. They also modified product labels on the remaining OTC cough and cold medicines to warn people not to use them in children under 4 years of age because of safety concerns.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Most often, you can treat an older baby's cold at home.

  • Offer plenty of fluids. Liquids are important to avoid dehydration. Encourage your baby to take in the usual amount of fluids. Extra fluids aren't necessary. If you're breast-feeding your baby, keep it up. Breast milk offers extra protection from cold-causing germs.
  • Thin the mucus. Your baby's doctor may recommend saline nose drops to loosen thick nasal mucus. Look for these OTC drops in your local pharmacy.
  • Suction your baby's nose. Keep your baby's nasal passages clear with a rubber-bulb syringe. Squeeze the bulb syringe to expel the air. Then insert the tip of the bulb about 1/4 to 1/2 inch (0.64 to 1.27 centimeters) into your baby's nostril, pointing toward the back and side of the nose.

    Release the bulb, holding it in place while it suctions the mucus from your baby's nose. Remove the syringe from your baby's nostril, and empty the contents onto a tissue by squeezing the bulb rapidly while holding the tip down. Repeat as often as needed for each nostril. Clean the bulb syringe with soap and water.

  • Moisten the air. Running a cool-water humidifier in your baby's room can ease nasal congestion. Change the water daily and follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning the unit.

Preparing for your appointment

If you need to see your baby's pediatrician or family doctor, here's some information to help you get ready for your baby's appointment.

What you can do

Make a list of:

  • Symptoms you've noticed in your baby, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • Key personal information, such as whether your baby goes to child care or has otherwise been exposed to someone with a common cold. Include how many colds your baby has had, how long they lasted and whether your baby is exposed to secondhand smoke. It might help to make a note on your calendar the day you realize your baby has a cold.
  • All medications your baby is taking, including doses.
  • Questions to ask your doctor.

For a common cold, some basic questions to ask the doctor include:

  • What is likely causing my baby's symptoms?
  • Are there other possible causes?
  • What tests are needed?
  • What's the best course of action?
  • My baby has other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
  • Are there restrictions we need to follow?
  • Are there over-the-counter medications that aren't safe for my child at this age?

Don't hesitate to ask other questions you have.

What to expect from your doctor

Your baby's doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:

  • When did your baby's symptoms begin?
  • Have they been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are they?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve them?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen them?
  • Has the nasal congestion caused your baby to eat or drink less?
  • Is your baby having as many wet diapers as usual?
  • Has there been a fever? If so, how high?
  • Are your child's vaccinations up to date?
  • Has your child taken antibiotics recently?

What you can do in the meantime

Take steps to make your baby more comfortable. These include moistening the air in your home and using saline drops and a suction bulb to remove mucus from your child's nose.

May 21, 2019
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  14. Common colds: Protect yourself and others. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed May 3, 2019.
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