- Symptoms of the common cold in babies include a stuffy or runny nose, loss of appetite, and cough.
- Symptoms typically peak and are worse from days two to three of illness, but can last for 10 days.
- Go to the doctor if your infant is older than 2 months and has a fever greater than 101°F.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
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How long the cold should last in babies
Symptoms for a cold will typically last 7 to 10 days in infants and children. Common cold symptoms to watch out for in your baby include:
There’s no concrete timeline for cold symptoms in babies because it varies from one baby to the next. But generally, a baby will develop a fever within the first three days of illness.
Their symptoms will probably peak and become the worst on days two and three. After that, by day four symptoms tend to improve. But the cough may linger beyond day 10.
Babies can sometimes catch up to eight colds a year. Nichols says the number depends on how often the baby is exposed to other children who may be sick.
For example, babies who attend daycare may catch the cold six to eight times a year, while babies who don’t tend to have fewer colds, about two or three.
How to help a baby with a cold
Usually, the best course of action is to wait for the cold to go away and manage symptoms in the meantime. Parents can use:
- A humidifier to ease stuffy or runny noses.
- Saline nose drops can thin mucus, which should then be removed with a bulb syringe.
- To relieve discomfort related to fever, acetaminophen pain relievers, like Tylenol, is safe if your baby is between 3 and 6 months old (for babies 6 months and older, you can provide ibuprofen).
It’s important to note that for children younger than 2 years old, avoid over-the-counter cough and cold medications that contain a decongestant or antihistamine. Common brands include Mucinex Children’s Stuffy Nose and Chest Congestion and Children’s Dimetapp Cold and Allergy.
That’s because it’s unclear what the right dose is for babies at this age, and overdoses can cause “convulsions, rapid heart rates, and death,” according to the FDA. In 2004-05, more than 1,500 US children younger than age 2 went to the emergency room for side effects related to overdoses from cough and cold medications.
When to take your baby to a doctor for the cold
While colds typically go away on their own, a baby may need to visit the pediatrician if unusual symptoms develop. According to Nichols, parents should seek medical care if:
- A baby younger than 2 months has a fever over 100.4 °F.
- The baby is older and has a fever of over 101 °F.
- A cough worsens after day 10.
- The baby is vomiting to the point they’re urinating less, which could cause dangerous nutrient deficiencies.
And if your baby isn’t exhibiting these warning signs but you’re still worried, call your pediatrician. You can also learn how to help prevent illness in your child by checking out our article “How to prevent cold and flu in children in the winter.“
Babies can catch up to eight colds in a single year, making them a common ailment. Usually, you can let the infection run its course and mitigate symptoms with OTC medication like Tyleno or saline drops.
However, if your infant is exhibiting a fever greater than 101 °F (or if they are younger than 2 months and have a fever over 100.4 °F), you should take them to a doctor.