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Decoding Cold Symptoms in Babies: What Every Parent Should Know

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cold symptoms in babies

Table of Contents

Introduction :

As a parent, you’ll inevitably encounter various health challenges with your baby, and one of the most common is the common cold. While adults may easily weather through a cold, babies, especially those under six months, are more vulnerable to its effects. In this blog, we’ll explore the nuances of cold symptoms in babies, how to differentiate them from more serious illnesses, and offer some practical tips for providing comfort and care.

Recognizing Cold Symptoms in Babies

1. Nasal Congestion: Babies with a cold often have stuffy or runny noses. You might notice your little one having difficulty breathing or even feeding due to congestion.

2. Sneezing: Frequent sneezing is a common cold symptom in babies. It’s their body’s way of trying to clear the nasal passages.

3. Coughing: A mild cough might accompany a cold. However, if the cough becomes severe or persistent, it’s wise to consult a pediatrician.

4. Fussiness and Irritability: Babies with a cold might be more irritable than usual due to discomfort caused by congestion, sore throat, or general malaise.

5. Low-grade Fever: A slightly elevated body temperature is not uncommon during a cold. However, any fever in infants younger than three months requires immediate medical attention.

6. Decreased Appetite: Babies might eat less when they have a cold due to difficulty breathing while feeding or a sore throat.

Differentiating Cold Symptoms In Babies From Serious Illnesses

While the common cold is usually harmless and runs its course in a week or so, some symptoms might indicate a more serious condition. If you notice cold symptoms in babies from the following, consult a pediatrician:

1. High Fever: A fever above 100.4°F (38°C) in infants under three months or 101°F (38.3°C) in older infants might signal an infection that needs prompt attention.

2. Wheezing: If your baby’s breathing becomes wheezy or you notice a high-pitched sound, it could indicate a possible respiratory issue.

3. Difficulty Breathing: Rapid or labored breathing, flaring nostrils, or retractions (sucking in the skin around the ribs) are concerning signs. Seek medical help immediately.

4. Persistent Cough: A persistent, worsening, or severe cough might indicate a more serious respiratory infection.

5. Dehydration: If your baby isn’t producing tears when crying, has a dry mouth, or has a significantly decreased number of wet diapers, dehydration could be a concern.

Caring For A Baby With A Cold

  • Keep Hydrated: Ensure your baby is getting enough fluids, whether through breast milk, formula, or age-appropriate beverages.
  • Elevate the Head: Slightly elevating the head of the crib or bassinet can help alleviate nasal congestion and improve breathing.
  • Use a Humidifier: Adding moisture to the air with a cool mist humidifier can help ease congestion and make breathing easier.
  • Saline Drops and Suction: Saline drops followed by gentle nasal suction can help clear out mucus from your baby’s nose.
  • Comfort Measures: Give plenty of snuggles, provide a cozy environment, and offer gentle massages to soothe discomfort.
  • Medical Attention: If symptoms worsen, if your baby has a high fever, or if you’re concerned, don’t hesitate to consult your pediatrician.

What Are The Other Illnesses That Could Come Up As Cold Symptoms In Babies?

Several newborn illnesses can present with symptoms similar to a cold, which can make it challenging for parents to differentiate between them. Here are a few examples:

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection

RSV is a common respiratory virus that can cause symptoms similar to a cold, including runny nose, coughing, sneezing, and fever. However, RSV can lead to more severe symptoms such as wheezing, rapid breathing, and difficulty breathing, especially in premature babies or those with underlying health conditions.

Influenza (Flu)

The flu can affect newborns similarly to a cold, causing symptoms like congestion, cough, sneezing, and fever. However, the flu can escalate quickly and lead to more severe symptoms, including high fever, body aches, and respiratory distress.


Bronchiolitis is a viral respiratory infection that primarily affects infants and young children. It can start with cold-like symptoms but progress to wheezing, rapid breathing, and difficulty feeding due to breathing difficulties.


Pneumonia can sometimes present with symptoms resembling a cold, such as cough, congestion, and fever. However, pneumonia is characterized by more serious respiratory symptoms, like rapid breathing, chest retractions, and bluish skin.


Newborns can also experience allergies that mimic cold symptoms, including nasal congestion, sneezing, and runny nose. However, allergies typically persist over time and might be triggered by specific allergens.


Although less common in newborns, sinusitis can cause symptoms like nasal congestion, cough, and fever. If the symptoms are persistent and accompanied by significant discomfort, it’s worth consulting a pediatrician.


The process of teething can cause some newborns to have symptoms that resemble a cold, such as drooling, irritability, and mild fever. However, teething doesn’t usually cause severe respiratory symptoms.


Croup is a viral infection that affects the airways and can cause a barking cough, hoarseness, and difficulty breathing. It might initially seem like a cold but can lead to more distinctive symptoms.

It’s important to note that while some illnesses share similar symptoms with a cold, the progression and severity of symptoms can vary significantly. If you’re ever uncertain about your baby’s symptoms or concerned about their health, don’t hesitate to reach out to a pediatrician for guidance and proper diagnosis.

Causes Of Cold In Newborns

Newborns, like people of all ages, can catch colds caused by viruses. However, there are a few specific factors that make newborns more susceptible to colds and show the first sign; cold symptoms in babies:

  1. Immature Immune System: Newborns have developing immune systems, which means they are less equipped to fight off infections, including the viruses that cause colds.
  2. Limited Exposure: Since newborns haven’t been exposed to many viruses, their immune systems haven’t had a chance to build up defenses against common cold-causing viruses.
  3. Maternal Antibodies: Newborns receive some immunity from their mothers through the placenta before birth, and also through breast milk after birth. However, this immunity wanes over time and might not be fully protective against all cold viruses.
  4. Close Contact: Newborns are often in close contact with caregivers and family members, increasing the likelihood of exposure to viruses that can cause colds.
  5. Environmental Factors: Babies are often kept indoors in enclosed environments, increasing the likelihood of virus transmission in these settings.

The viruses that cause colds in newborns are usually the same as those that cause colds in older children and adults. Common culprits include:

  1. Rhinoviruses: These are the most common viruses causing colds in people of all ages, including newborns.
  2. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV): RSV is a virus that can cause severe respiratory infections in newborns and young infants.
  3. Adenoviruses: Adenoviruses can lead to cold-like symptoms, as well as more severe respiratory and gastrointestinal issues.
  4. Coronaviruses: Some coronaviruses can cause cold symptoms, although the COVID-19 coronavirus tends to affect adults more severely.
  5. Parainfluenza Viruses: These viruses can cause cold-like symptoms as well as more serious respiratory infections.

Preventing Cold Transmission to Newborns

To help protect newborns from cold viruses, consider these preventive measures:

  • Wash hands thoroughly before handling a newborn, and encourage others to do the same.
  • Avoid contact with individuals who are sick, and encourage visitors to postpone visits if they’re unwell.
  • If possible, breastfeed your baby. Breast milk provides antibodies that can help protect against infections.
  • Regularly disinfect surfaces, toys, and other objects that come into contact with your baby.
  • In the early weeks and months, try to minimize your newborn’s exposure to crowded places where viruses might spread more easily.
  • Make sure that family members and caregivers are up to date on vaccinations to reduce the risk of transmitting certain viral infections.

It’s natural for newborns to catch a cold from time to time, and most colds are mild and resolve on their own. However, if you’re concerned about cold symptoms in babies or their overall health, always consult a pediatrician for guidance.

Is It Normal For Newborns To Get A Cold?

Yes, it’s relatively common for newborns to catch a cold. Newborns, just like older children and adults, can be affected by viral infections that cause cold-like symptoms. However, due to their developing immune systems and limited exposure to viruses, newborns are more susceptible to infections, including the common cold.

Newborns are often in close contact with caregivers, family members, and other individuals, which can increase their chances of being exposed to viruses. Additionally, factors such as being indoors in enclosed environments and seasonal changes can contribute to the spread of cold viruses.

While it’s common for newborns to get colds, it’s important to note that newborns are at higher risk of experiencing more severe symptoms compared to older children and adults. This is due to their underdeveloped immune systems and smaller airways, which can lead to more difficulty in breathing.

If you notice developing cold symptoms in babies, such as a runny nose, cough, or mild fever, it’s generally not cause for major concern. However, if you’re ever unsure about your baby’s health or if their symptoms worsen, it’s always a good idea to consult a pediatrician. They can guide how to care for your baby and determine whether any further evaluation or treatment is necessary.

Surprise Takeaway!

Here are five interesting facts about colds in newborns:

Newborns have a higher risk of complications from colds due to their developing immune systems and smaller airways. This makes it important to closely monitor their symptoms and seek medical attention if needed.

Newborns receive a boost of immunity from their mothers through the placenta and breast milk. This immunity helps protect them from some infections, including colds, but it gradually wanes over time.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common cause of cold-like symptoms in newborns. RSV can be more severe in newborns and young infants, leading to bronchiolitis or pneumonia.

Newborns are especially vulnerable to colds during their first six months of life. Their immune systems are still adapting, and they have limited exposure to viruses before birth.

While newborns might experience cold symptoms, their colds usually last for a shorter duration compared to older children and adults. This is due to the rapid turnover of immune cells in their developing immune systems.

These facts highlight the unique challenges that colds pose for newborns and the importance of providing appropriate care and attention when they are affected by these viral infections.

Conclusion; Cold Symptoms In Babies

Caring for a baby with a cold can be worrisome, but with proper knowledge and attentive care, you can help your little one recover smoothly. 

Babies’ immune systems are still developing, and while most colds are mild, it’s essential to be vigilant about any changes in symptoms, especially in infants under six months. 

By understanding the nuances of cold symptoms and seeking medical advice when needed, you’ll be better equipped to handle this common childhood ailment.

FAQs on Cold Symptoms In Babies

1. Can newborns catch colds?

Yes, newborns can catch colds. They are susceptible to viral infections that cause cold-like symptoms due to their developing immune systems and limited exposure to viruses.

2. How can I tell if my newborn has a cold or something more serious?

Differentiating between a cold and a more serious illness can be challenging. Look for signs of respiratory distress, high fever, persistent coughing, and difficulty feeding. If you're unsure, consult a pediatrician for guidance.

3. Can I use over-the-counter cold medications for my newborn's cold?

It's not recommended to use over-the-counter cold medications for newborns, as they can have adverse effects. Always consult a pediatrician before giving any medication to your baby.

4. Is breastfeeding safe when my baby has a cold?

Yes, breastfeeding is safe and beneficial when your baby has a cold. Breast milk provides antibodies that can help your baby fight off the infection and stay hydrated. It can also help soothe their discomfort.


On behalf of the editorial team at Parenthoodbliss, we follow strict reporting guidelines and only use credible sources, along with peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and highly respected health organizations. To learn about how we maintain content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.

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