Your child's first cold & flu
Is it a cold or is it the flu?
The common cold and the flu can often have similar symptoms, making it hard to know what you’re dealing with when symptoms first set in. Often it takes a trip to the doctor to know for sure. Most doctors will tell you that symptoms, such as fever and body aches, tend to be more severe when your child has the flu. In fact, children with colds rarely run a fever. Typically, children with colds have milder symptoms such as a stuffy or runny nose. Parents should alert their doctor if they think it could be more serious. While a common cold is often less harmful, the flu can develop into something more serious.
What to expect when babies become sick
While fevers during a baby’s first few months of life may be caused by common cold viruses, newborns do run
the small but real risk of having a more serious underlying infection. The younger the infant, the less prepared the immune system is to fight infection and the more seriously an elevated temperature should be taken. If you suspect your infant (especially under the age of three months) may be running a fever equal to or greater than 100.4°F, doctors recommend taking his temperature rectally and notifying the pediatrician immediately if the temperature is 100.4°F or higher.
What to have on hand
A cold or flu can strike at any time, and often in the middle of the night. That’s why it’s important for parents to always be prepared even before the first signs of illness. When sickness hits, be sure to offer plenty of liquids, use saline drops to clear nasal congestion when necessary and try keeping your child’s head elevated during sleep (never use a pillow for a child under the age of 2). These tips and, of course, the love of the parent, will help make those times of illness more comfortable for both you and your child.
Important items to have in the nursery:
Thermometer: Make sure you have a good thermometer and know how to use it. For infants under 3 months of age, doctors recommend taking their temperature rectally with a digital thermometer.
Humidifier: One of the first things pediatricians recommend when little ones come down with a cold is running a humidifier in their room.
Nasal aspirator: Babies and toddlers haven’t quite figured out how to clear their own tiny nostrils and will need help from mom.
Medicine: Talk to your doctor about what is best to have on hand for your child, from saline spray to medication and drinks to rehydrate and replace electrolytes. You’ll also want to make sure that any medicine in your cabinet has not expired, and that you’re aware of the appropriate dosages based on your child’s weight. Never give medication to an infant without first consulting your physician.
Your Doctor’s phone number: Always have your doctor’s number on speed dial or somewhere very easy to find, such as on the refrigerator door.