Q. Our 4-month old has her first cold. She seems so miserable with her stuffy nose. Are there any medications to make her feel better?
A. Colds are caused by viruses that affect the upper respiratory tract. Symptoms may include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, cough and fever. They are typically worst the first three to four days, but nasal drainage may continue for up to two weeks.
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There is no cure for the common cold. Because colds are viral (not bacterial), antibiotics are ineffective. Over-the-counter cold medications may be dangerous and are not recommended for infants and young children. Safe treatment options include:
• Nasal saline drops to help thin out nasal secretions.
• Bulb suction for removing mucous from nasal passages.
• Adequate hydration by feeding more frequently.
• Cool mist humidifier in bedroom (should be cleaned daily to avoid mold).
• Fever-reducers such as acetaminophen (should be used under guidance of health care provider).
Although most colds resolve on their own, parents should look for signs of potential complications, such as pneumonia, wheezing and ear infections. A visit to the doctor is warranted when there is:
• Difficulty breathing/wheezing/grunting.
• Poor feeding/vomiting/decreased urine production.
• Irritability/lethargy/pale or gray color.
• Sleep disturbance.
• Fever that lasts longer than 3-4 days.
• Age less than 2 months.
• Underlying medical problems.