Avoiding Colds

The best ways to protect your baby.


Cold viruses flourish in winter—and the more everyone is indoors, the less likely it is that virus-containing particles will blow away. Infants are especially susceptible to the common cold because they haven't developed resistance to most of the viruses that cause them.

That's why the all-time No. 1 cold-prevention strategy—washing hands frequently— is especially important for all baby-handlers to keep in mind, and that's true even if no one around your baby has the sniffles, says Littleton, Colorado-based pediatrician Kenneth E. Katz, M.D. Some viruses spread before symptoms appear, and many are most contagious during the first few days, when mucus is clear and less noticeable.

Washing shared toys regularly is another good idea, though colds are usually transmitted via a sneeze or cough into the air, Katz says. "Viruses survive on surfaces for 10 minutes or less," he adds.

Safe Symptom Relievers

While doctors and manufacturers say over-the-counter cold medicines should not be given to children younger than 4, there are several other ways to make your baby more comfortable. Pediatrician Kenneth E. Katz, M.D., offers the following tips:

-Use saline nose drops to loosen mucus, wait 15 seconds, then suction it out with a bulb syringe.

-Elevate the head of your baby's crib by putting folded blankets under one end of the mattress. This helps mucus to drain.

-Use a cool-mist humidifier (with fresh water and a clean filter) in the nursery at night.

-Give children 1 year and older ½ teaspoon of buckwheat honey to ease coughing and aid sleep. (Honey can cause botulism in infants.)

Ear Fears

Colds are more likely to develop into ear infections in children 6 months to 2 ½ years old, when mucus can more easily plug tiny Eustachian tubes. If your baby's cold is getting worse rather than better in four days, or he has a low-grade fever (up to 101° F) or becomes fussy, especially when lying down, see his pediatrician; his ears may be the culprits.