The pediatrician answers > Tricks to prevent babies from getting colds

The treatment for the cold is intended to control the symptoms that the baby presents and to alleviate their discomfort.

Jan 24, 2019

What is the common cold?

A cold is an infection of the upper respiratory tract (nose, pharynx or throat, larynx and trachea), which appears very frequently in children under four years of age (between three and ten episodes a year). It is one of the biggest reasons for consultation for paediatricians. It appears, more frequently, in the autumn and winter seasons and usually follows a benign course, although attention should always be paid to its evolution to detect early onset of possible complications.

What are the causes?

The infection is caused by a virus, a microorganism, which penetrates the mucous membranes or the lining of the mouth, nose and pharynx producing inflammation and triggering the symptoms. There are about 200 types of viruses that can cause colds. The patient can get infected with any of these viruses directly, through contact with the secretions of sick people or by touching the hands of a person or contaminated objects.

There are some factors that increase the predisposition of children to contract this infection such as attending daycare, being passively exposed to cigarette smoke or by living in close quarters with a person suffering from a cold.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms are nasal congestion and the appearance of mucus, a dry cough that sometimes makes it difficult for the baby to sleep, throat irritation and possible fever. In babies, the cold usually produces greater effects on their general state than to older children. It can be recognised by a decrease in appetite, if their general state is down (especially when they have a fever) and you can associate digestive symptoms, such as vomiting, with coughing fits, or diarrhoea. Sometimes, depending on the type of virus that causes the cold, you can encounter conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva (white part) of the eye, with tearing, discrete inflammation of the eyelids and the possible appearance of crusts or secretions in the eye).

Parents or caregivers should pay attention to possible complications, consulting the paediatrician whenever persistent fever appears, poor general state (even when the baby does not have a fever), continuous and excessive crying, difficulty breathing even after cleaning the nostrils, or on the appearance of skin lesions.

How to diagnose?

The diagnosis of colds is clinical, meaning, doctors base it on the symptoms that the patient presents and on the physical examination they perform to determine if what they suffer from is an upper respiratory infection. Ordinarily, no other complementary examinations are done, except if there is uncertainty regarding the diagnostic or the evolution is not as expected.


The treatment for the cold is intended to control the symptoms that the baby presents and to alleviate their discomfort.

What is the treatment?

The treatment for the cold is intended to control the symptoms that the baby presents and to alleviate their discomfort. In order to be able to breathe better, it is recommended to perform nasal rinses with physiological saline, without putting excessive pressure, and repeating the operation as many times as necessary. Postural measures can be taken to encourage the baby’s breathing such as raising the head out of the crib. The proper hydration of the child and maintaining a humid environment should be monitored. If the baby has a fever, antipyretics-analgesics can be administered to control it.

What preventive measures can be taken?

The most effective prevention measures have to do with avoiding putting the baby in contact with sick persons since the virus that produces can be transmitted by small droplets of saliva when talking, sneezing or through hand contact, if they don’t observe proper hygiene. If there is no alternative and the baby needs to be put in direct contact with a person that suffers from a cold, extreme hygiene of hands should be done with proper and frequent washing. For the same reason, it is recommended that children do not share food utensils, chew toys, pacifiers, etc. and to ventilate the rooms properly.

The frequency of colds in the first years of life is related to the immaturity of the immune (defence) system of the organism.

One of the factors that can help an adequate development of the immune defences is to maintain an adequate, varied and complete alimentation of the baby in each growth phase. The immune response is essential to prevent invading infectious agents since its function is to quickly eliminate microorganisms that get in contact with the body. An adequate nutritional state of the baby that avoids suffering from deficiencies of vitamins or minerals such as copper, folates, iron, selenium, zinc, vitamins such as A, B6, B12, C and D, or essential fatty acids, among others. These vitamins and minerals can prevent in many cases the compromise of the state of immunocompetence and defences of the organism.

To prevent babies from getting colds, the main food that should be given is breast milk, especially until 6 months. If breastfeeding is not possible or is insufficient, it is advisable to use baby formulas with advanced formulations, in some cases enriched with probiotics that are also related to strengthening the immunity.

Based on the age of the baby, the gradual introduction of supplementary foods like porridges or baby food of varied composition and adjusted to the needs of the child should be made. This ultimately favours an adequate nutritional status and makes them able to face the continuous development of their organism and also strengthens their defences.