A guide to coughs and colds in babies

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Why does my baby keep getting colds?

Mums and dads always joke that their young kids pick up absolutely every single cough and cold that’s going around. It feels like that because it’s true! Babies and small children haven’t yet built up immunity to all the different types of coughs and colds that go around, so they usually come down with them all. So don’t despair, it’s a normal part of growing up. As they get bigger, they’ll naturally get fewer colds.

Most colds last around five to seven days. They tend to run their course, but there are things you can do to promote your baby’s immunity.

How can I soothe my baby or toddler while they have a cough or cold?

  • Increase the amount of water your baby is drinking or offer more breast or milk feeds
  • If your little one has a fever or discomfort, baby paracetamol or ibuprofen can help – always follow the instructions carefully so you don’t over-dose or give it too readily
  • If your baby is very snotty and bunged up, you can buy safe baby chest rubs and bath products that contain plant oils, such as eucalyptus, that can help them to breathe more easily. Do not use adult products and check your baby is old enough to use products for children
  • Make sure everyone in the family washes their hands with soap and water, and dries them properly so the germs won’t spread

What do I do if my baby is coughing?

Coughing is usually a normal part of the process of a cold. Mucus trickles down their throats and coughing is a natural reaction to try to clear it away.

However, babies are much less efficient at getting the oxygen they need and prolonged bouts of coughing will exhaust a baby. So if the cough seems bad, bouts of coughing last more than a few seconds or the cough itself has lasted a long time, then do go and see your baby’s doctor.

What do I do if my baby or toddler has a sore throat?

Lots of things go along with colds – coughs being the main one – but also sore throats. Usually sore throats are viral and start a day or two before the cold emerges. Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be used in moderation to ease the discomfort – but always follow the instructions precisely to avoid over-dosing.

Most sore throats will clear up on their own – like the cold does. But if they last longer than about four days, or your child also has a temperature, or is unable to swallow fluids, go and see your doctor. Lots of baby carrying can also help your baby by soothing them and also stopping their throat from feeling too dry (due to being held more upright by you).