How to handle baby’s first cold

How to handle baby’s first cold

Winter is upon us, so brace for a whole lot of sniffling and sneezing.

How to handle baby’s first cold

Natalie McDermott’s son Isaac was only a few months old when he got his first cold.

“His was a winter thing, he was born in April,” she tells Kidspot. “In his first year, he probably had two or three colds. It felt like he always had a runny nose, each one seemed to last forever!”

She says the hardest thing about being a new mum with a sick baby was the feeling of helplessness because as soon as he couldn’t breathe well, he couldn’t sleep, and everything became more difficult.

“The poor little things can’t sniff or blow their nose. They’re so dependent on you helping them clear their nostrils. You’re constantly checking whether their breathing is OK, and you’re thinking of things like maybe shifting the angle of their cot so their head is raised and they can sleep better.

“Isaac’s first cold went for weeks. You learn a lot about snot – is it green, is it brown, is it clear? It’s disgusting, you never pay that much attention to your own,” she laughs.

She tells Kidspot it was especially hard using saline solution to help clear Isaac’s nose as a baby because although she knew it was helping him, he hated it and it was hard to know she was upsetting him. However, now that he’s three, coughs and colds are much more manageable.

“Now he can blow his own nose, that is such a win. It was a proud parenting moment teaching him to do that. We’ve progressed, because now he can do it himself. It does get better!”

Here’s a quick guide to your first cough and cold season (1):


Children often have up to six colds per year. Colds, and most coughs, are caused by viruses (not bacteria) so antibiotics won’t help. However, if the cough is bad and persists your child may have a chest infection caused by bacteria instead. If that’s the case, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics.

Young mother looking at thermometer and checking baby's temperature in the bedroom.

Signs and symptoms

Signs your baby has a cold include a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, fever and a noisy cough. Children cough to either get rid of the mucous from their chest or when it runs from their nose down the back of their throat. For this reason, you don’t want to stop the cough completely. However, you can help ease your child’s distress by soothing it. Offer them extra fluids. It’s advisable not to use any cough medicines on babies unless you seek the advice of your family doctor or pharmacist.

Symptom relief and treatment

Treating colds in babies at home can be as simple as comforting them and keeping them calm, offering them frequent drinks and giving paracetamol for a fever after consultation with a doctor. If your child continues to have trouble breathing or becomes more distressed and unwell, see your family doctor or hospital right away.


Croup is a viral infection that causes swelling at the back of the throat, narrowing the airway and making breathing difficult. It may begin like a normal cold, with a runny nose and cough, but can develop into a harsh barking cough especially at night. It may also be noisy or squeaky when your baby breathes in and they may have a slight fever. Croup can can last from several days up to a week, but the cough may continue longer. If that’s the case, see your family doctor.

Brought to you byChildren’s Panadol, helping new mums through the first five years of parenthood. Click here to find out more.

Children’s Panadol contains paracetamol. ALWAYS READ THE LABEL. Use only as directed. For the temporary relief of pain and fever. Incorrect use could be harmful. Consult your healthcare professional if symptoms persist.