Parents, here’s a guide on what you can do and remedies you can try if your baby has a cough and cold.
What can you read in this article?
- Usual causes of cough and cold on babies
- What do to if your baby has a cough and cold
- When to try home remedies and when to go to the doctor
It’s hard not to care when the baby has a cough because he can’t tell you how he’s feeling. Parents should be observant and listen to every sound of the cough and breathing by their baby, to realize what kind of cough she has. Babies are not like adults who at any time can buy medicine for cough and cold.
When babies and children experience these common illnesses, the first solution is not medicine. So what to do when a baby has a cough and cold?
What’s the culprit for baby’s cough and cold
A baby’s cough can mean a lot. Should parents wait for the cough to disappear? Is it okay for your child to take any cough syrup? Can parents make an appointment first, or should the baby be sent to the Emergency Room?
According to Robert Giesler, a respiratory therapist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, when you’re accustomed to listening to different coughing children, you’ll realize different kinds of coughing, which should be a concern.
It’s natural to feel worried when you see your child having a stuffy nose, or when you hear your baby’s cough, especially at night.
Image from iStock
But you have to remember that coughing is the body’s first defense to keep the airways open and remove the degenerated phlegm, or at least food.
This is an important way to protect the body against respiratory tract diseases. Coughing will also give the parent a signal of what kind of disease will be predicted.
According to Dr. Carlo Palarca, M.D., an internist, for babies 4 months old and below, having a severe cough is already a cause for alarm.
When it’s cold season, and the baby gets cold and severe coughs, it may be a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a dangerous viral infection that gets babies.
But as he grows older and turns one, coughing will no longer be that alarming. Most likely, it will be accompanied by the common cold, Dr. Palarca explained. He also said that there are two types of cough –
- Dry cough is usually caused by colds or allergies. After all, coughing helps prevent colds and relaxes the throat and airways, where phlegm is blocked.
- Wet cough, caused by respiratory illness with a bacterial infection. This is the type of cough with phlegm or mucus (which includes white blood cells resistant to germs) in the child’s throat.
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What your baby’s cough says about the cause
Listening to your baby’s cough can actually help pinpoint the cause and give the appropriate treatment. Here are some usual symptoms you should watch out for and what caused it.
Wheezing cough with phlegm
A stuffy nose and a sore throat are signs of a cold and the flu. A child coughs because of the phlegm in the throat that the system is trying to remove. Sometimes, it also comes with fever.
Croup: Cough like barking
Croup is one of the most common causes of cough in children 5 years old and younger.
This is a relentless cough that sounds like the child is barking and has difficulty breathing. It is caused by a viral infection, which swells the throat or trachea, that the airway for breathing is almost closed.
This cough also disappears quickly. Sometimes it only lasts up to 4 days. If this cough persists, consult a doctor immediately. Find the best medicine for cough and colds.
Bronchitis or Asthma: Cough with wheezing or whistling
The cough usually becomes bronchiolitis, along with a cold.
When accompanied by difficulty in breathing and wheezing, it can be caused by an obstruction in the airway or airway, such as dust, for example.
When RSV is present, it can turn into bronchiolitis. This type of cough is dangerous for infants under one year of age. It usually attacks during the cold or rainy season and is accompanied by low-grade fever and loss of appetite.
Asthma is uncommon for children under 2 years of age unless someone has eczema or a family history of allergies or asthma.
When the airway or airway closes, and there is wheezing probably caused by asthma. This includes colds, itching, and tearing of the eyes.
Whooping cough: Loud cough
This cough, also called pertussis, does not include a cold or fever, but it is a severe type of cough.
It is a dangerous bacterial infection that commonly causes infants’ death before the DTP vaccine was available in the 1960s and eventually eradicated in America.
According to the APA, the disease returns, and symptoms need to be known to prevent it.
Pneumonia: cough accompanied by other symptoms
It is a viral or bacterial infection that attacks the lungs caused by many possible things, such as a cold.
When a child has pneumonia, you hear the rattle of phlegm. When your child coughs, they become weak and have greenish or yellow mucus in their nose and mouth.
Usually, it is accompanied by fever and difficulty in breathing. Although in some cases, these other symptoms might go unnoticed. This is known as walking pneumonia.
Other causes of baby’s cough
According to Dr. Romina Geraloga, a pediatric pulmonologist at Makati Medical Center, it is important to observe the baby’s cough carefully. See what kind of cough it is. Also, check if anyone in the house has a cough.
“Kasi kung may adult na umuubo (sa bahay) at malala. Dapat ay maintindihan natin na maaaring nahawa ang baby sa sakit ng adult.” the doctor explained.
It can also be from eating.
“Kung masyadong nakahiga ay maaring ang pagkain o milk ay napunta sa daluyan niya ng hangin instead sa daluyan ng pagkain,” she said.
You can also check if the baby is experiencing any issues with her digestive system or having some allergies. Dr. Geraloga added,
“Mayroon ba siyang ginawa o activity na na-expose ba siya sa alikabok or sa dustmites. You have to check your bed linens also.
Tingnan mo kung lagi bang napapalitan iyong kobre kama ninyo. Kasi kung mataas ang allergy sa pamilya, maaaring posible rin na kaya inuubo ang bata ay dahil may nagti-trigger dito.”
My baby has cough and cold, what can I do?
Image from iStock
According to Dr. Geraloga, there are home remedies for a child’s common cold and cough.
But the first step is always to observe what kind of cough it is to find out what the course of treatment is.
“Para sa bata ang karaniwang ubo ay about viruses. So kapag virus, hindi naman kailangan agad mag-antibiotics.
So ang unang gagawin ng magulang, obserbahan, anong klase, o nagiging malubha ang ubo. Ikalawa, tulungan ang bata. May mga home remedies na pinag-aralan.”
For pediatricians, giving cough and cold medicines to children, especially babies, should just be the last resort. Parents should try other ways and home remedies first to treat the colds.
If your baby has cough and cold, here are some things you can try:
1. Get the mucus out.
One of the first things that experts advise when treating colds for babies is to use a nasal spray on baby’s nose to loosen the mucus. Try to suction it out using a nasal aspirator. This will help clear the passages for baby to breathe properly and will prevent post-nasal drip leading to cough.
Do this when you notice that baby has a stuffed nose, can’t breathe properly, and also, before breastfeeding.
Ask your pediatrician about the correct way to use a nasal spray and nasal aspirator on your baby.
As Dr. Geraloga mentioned, there are home remedies that can help relieve a child’s cold or cough. One of the trusted herbal medicines when it comes to respiratory illnesses is lagundi.
“May mga home remedies na pinag-aralan. Tulad ng lagundi may mga studies na nagsasabing nakakatulong ito para mapalambot ang plema sa baga.”
However, you need to consult your child’s doctor first before giving him any herbal medicine to confirm if he has an allergy to it or not.
Honey can also help. According to Dr. Geraloga, there are studies that honey is proven to decrease a child’s cough.
“At dahil nababawasan ang pag-ubo nakakatulog sila ng maayos. And also ay nababawasan rin nito ang secretion ng mucus. Pero ang lahat ng ito ay pinag-aaralan pa.”
Warning: children below 1 year old are not allowed to have honey. It can cause a serious condition called infant botulism.
If your baby is coughing due to asthma or having trouble breathing caused by other respiratory issues such as pneumonia or other severe allergic reactions, the doctor may suggest nebulization. With proper guidance from a doctor, nebulization can clear congestion in babies to help them breathe better.
“Kung hikain, tingan mo kung ano ang instructions sa inyo ng inyong doktor. Baka naman mayroon ka ng gamot na ready at puwede mo ng i-nebulize ang bata,” said Dr. Geraloga.
Just make sure to consult your doctor on the proper medication and schedule of nebulization for your child.
5. Using a humidifier
Running a cool-water humidifier in your baby’s room to moisten the air can ease nasal congestion. Just remember to change the water daily and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning the unit.
If you don’t have a humidifier at home, you can try bringing your child to the bathroom and stay there for a while to breathe in the warm mist from the shower.
6. Drink plenty of fluids and rest.
If baby’s cough and cold are caused by a virus, chances are you just need to wait it out and observe if it gets worse. Your first line of defense should be to keep your immune system up by increasing fluids and resting. According to Dr. Geraloga,
“Kung ito naman ay isang ubo dahil sa virus, just increase fluid intake at mag-rest at obserbahan kung ito ay gumagrabe.”
Give your child enough fluids. For babies under 6 months of age, only breast milk or formula milk can be given. Avoid water or juice. Encourage him to rest or take a nap.
Other things to remember when treating a baby who has cough and cold
Image from iStock
What medications are not allowed
As previously mentioned, medicines should not be the first line of defense when it comes to a baby’s cough and cold. In fact, some medicines may actually do more harm than good.
For instance, the Food and Drug Administration does not advise giving over-the-counter medications such as cough syrups and decongestants to children two years old and below.
If your child has a stuffy nose and is coughing because of allergies, you can give antihistamines but only upon the advice of a doctor. He or she will give you the proper dosage and schedule for taking it.
Finally, if the baby has a cough and cold and is running a fever, you may give her some fever medicine (if she is 4 months old and above). But again, upon the advice of her pediatrician.
Just to be safe, always consult your pediatrician before giving your baby any kind of medication.
That is why it is important for you to monitor your child. Here is Doc’s advice on monitoring baby’s cough,
“Tingnan mo kung lumulubha ito sa pamamagitan ng bilis o sa lalim ng paghinga at iyong frequency ng cough sa isang araw.”
Don’t forget to consult your doctor first so they can give the right treatment for your baby.
When to go to the doctor
Coughs and cold caused by a viral infection usually go away on their own after a few days. But if you notice the following signs and symptoms in your baby, you should contact your pediatrician right away:
- The baby is less than 6 months old, and the cough is frequent
- If the baby is 3 months younger and has a fever (37.8 above)
- If the baby has a fever that is 38.9 C or higher
- The cough has lasted for over 10 days
- Their cough worsens despite home remedies
- Your baby is not feeding well
- The baby is having a hard time breathing
- Night sweats, weight loss, and has blood when coughing
- The baby is extra sleepy or too fussy
- There is phlegm but without wheezing or whistling, night or day
Read the Filipino version here!
Carlo Palarca, MD; Robert Giesler, BSN, RN; KidsHealth, Healthline, WebMD
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