How to Treat a Baby’s Cough

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How to Treat a Baby’s Cough

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In the first year of life, most babies get up to seven colds.

Since most cold and cough medications aren’t tested for use in babies, you shouldn’t give cough medicines to babies — in fact, most cough and cold medicines have been shown to cause side effects in babies, especially if they aren’t dosed correctly.

You’ll still need to make your baby comfortable somehow.

Since coughing is an important, normal way for your baby to rid the body of irritants and mucus, you should make sure your baby can breathe comfortably despite the coughing.

Talk to your doctor about suctioning your baby’s nose.

And, make your baby and your baby’s room more comfortable by introducing moisture, giving medication, and offering more fluids.

Helping Your Baby Breathe

Make a saline solution. To make a saline (salt) solution, boil tap water and let it cool or buy distilled water.

Combine 1 cup of your water and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the water.

Stir the mixture well and pour it into a covered jar.

You can store the saline solution at room temperature for up to three days until you’re ready to use it.

You can also buy a saline solution or saline nose drops from most pharmacies or drugstores.

When used correctly, saline solutions and drops are safe for infants to use.

Add the saline to your baby’s nose.

Fill a plastic blue baby suction bulb with the saline solution.

Lay your baby on their back and tilt the baby’s head back a little bit.

Carefully cradle your baby’s head so you have some control over dropping in the solution.

Slowly and gently add two to three drops of the saline solution to each nostril.

Be careful not to place the tip of the suction bulb too far into your baby’s nose.

The tip of the bulb should only go just past the opening of the nostrils.

Don’t worry if your baby sneezes some of the solution out.

Let the solution work for a minute.

Wipe around your baby’s nose since some of the solution may have leaked out or your baby might have sneezed.

Keep your baby lying flat while you let the saline solution work.

Wait about a minute and then empty the bulb into a sink or nearby basin.

Don’t leave your baby unattended or let the baby move their head around too much before you suction out the solution.

Suction out the mucus.

Squeeze the suction bulb a little and place the tip of the bulb back into the nose.

The tip should only go about 1/4 inch into your baby’s nostril.

Release the pressure on the bulb which will suction out the mucus.

Wipe the tip of the bulb off on a tissue.

You can refill the bulb with more saline and repeat suctioning for each nostril.

To thoroughly clean the bulb when you’re done, wash it with warm soapy water.

While most hospitals will send you home with a suction bulb, you should limit the number of times you suction a newborn’s nose to two or three a day.

Don’t suction your older baby’s nose more than four times a day or you may irritate the delicate lining of the nose.

The most useful times to suction your baby’s nose is before bedtime or feeding.

Ask your doctor if you have any questions about suctioning.

Consider using a nasal spray.

If you don’t feel comfortable suctioning out your baby’s nostrils, you can buy a saline nasal spray.

Choose a nasal spray for infants from your pharmacy or drugstore.

These nasal sprays are designed to be used without suction or using a bulb.

Make sure to choose sprays with saline, and not medications.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and be sure to wipe any extra saline from around your baby’s nose when you’re done using the spray.

Keeping Your Baby Comfortable

Raise the head of your baby’s crib.

Elevating your baby’s head with a thin pillow or rolled towel can help your baby get better sleep during a cold.

But your baby shouldn’t have any loose blankets or pillows in the crib.

To safely elevate your baby’s head, place the thin pillow or rolled towel underneath the mattress.

Raising your baby’s head slightly at night can make it easier to breathe.

Always place your baby to sleep on their back to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Regulate your baby’s temperature.

If your baby is running a fever, make sure not to bundle on too many clothes.

Dress your baby in a light layer of clothing, but check often to make sure your baby is warm enough.

Touch your baby’s ears, face, feet, and hands.

If these feel warm or sweaty, your baby is probably too warm.

If you dress your baby too warmly or in too many layers, it may make your baby uncomfortable and make it harder for your baby to fight the fever or your baby’s fever may get worse.

Cuddle with your baby

If your baby isn’t feeling well, chances are your baby will be a little fussier and clingier.

Try to take the time to give your baby extra attention and comfort while your baby is sick.

If your baby is very young, try napping and babywearing most of the day.

For an older baby, you might try snuggling and reading stories or doing puzzles.

Encourage your baby to rest.

Your baby needs extra rest to recover from the cough.

Keep the air humid.

Run a cool mist vaporizer or humidifier in the baby’s room at night to introduce moisture into the room.

The water vapor can keep your baby’s airways open, making it easier to breathe.

You can also introduce moisture into the air by leaving bowls of water around to evaporate.

If you don’t have a vaporizer, you can bring your baby into the bathroom while you run a hot shower.

Close the doors and windows and sit in the bathroom while breathing in the steam.

Take care to keep your baby away from the hot water and never leave them alone in the bathroom.

Feeding and Medicating Your Baby

Watch your baby’s feeding cues.

Your baby needs extra fluids during a cold to stay hydrated and prevent coughing, especially if they have a fever.

If you are nursing or giving your baby formula, try to feed more often so your baby gets more fluids.

Nurse or feed your baby whenever your baby signals that they are hungry.

Your baby may take smaller amounts more frequently, especially if your baby is having trouble breathing.

If your baby eats solid foods, make certain the foods are soft and easily digestible.

Breast milk and extra fluids can thin the secretions in your baby’s breathing passages so your baby can cough them out easier.

Reduce dairy products.

If your baby is nursing, continue to give breast milk.

But if your baby is drinking milk or eating dairy, you may want to reduce dairy products.

Milk and dairy products can thicken the mucus your baby produces.

Offer more water or diluted juice if your baby is over six months old.

If your baby is under six months old and takes formula, continue giving the formula even if the powder is made with cow’s milk.

It’s important that your baby keeps getting vital nutrients from their main source of food.

You should also avoid giving your baby honey before one year of age.

This can prevent your baby from getting infant botulism.

Treat any accompanying fevers.

If your baby is coughing and running a fever, you can give infant acetaminophen.

Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s dosing instructions and only use infant acetaminophen if your baby is at least two months old.

If your baby is at least six months old, you can use either acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Call your doctor for advice if:

Your baby is under three months old and is running a fever of over 100.4°F (38°C)

Your baby over three months has a fever of over 102°F (38.9°C)
The fever lasts more than three days

Get medical attention. Most coughs caused by common colds will clear up on their own within 10 to 14 days.

But your baby may need medical attention if:

  • Your baby has bluish lips, fingers or toes — this requires immediate medical attention; call emergency services at once
  • Your baby under three months old has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher or over 102°F (38.9°C) if over three months old
  • Your baby coughs up blood
  • The coughing is getting worse or is very frequent
  • Your baby has trouble breathing (gasps, breathes fast, wheezes, or takes strange breaths)
  • Your baby refuses to nurse or take formula (or you’re not changing as many diapers)
  • Your baby vomits
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