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What can I do for my newborn’s chest cold?
Q: My 2½-month-old son has a cold in his chest. I can hear it whenever he breathes. What should I do?
Latesha Virginia Beach
A: Latesha, it’s always best to call your doctor if you have any concerns about your baby’s health. We don’t want to take any chances with babies, especially newborns who haven’t yet developed all their immune protection against illnesses. If other family members have a cold, your baby may have caught the cold, too. But babies can sometimes get sicker—be sure to call your doctor immediately if your baby has any of the following:

  • Fever over 100.4 degrees F (38 degrees C) rectally

  • Excessive fussiness

  • Refusing to eat

  • Persistent cough, wheezing, difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, flaring nostrils, skin pulling in around his ribs when he breathes, or lips turning blue

  • The doctor will examine your baby and tell you whether any medicine is needed.

    If the doctor says that your baby just has a cold and will get better soon on his own, here are some tips to make him feel more comfortable:

  • Make sure your baby continues to drink breast milk or formula. To make sure your baby gets enough fluids, try feeding her a little more frequently than usual.

  • Run a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer in your baby’s room. The water vapor can help moisten and loosen your baby’s nasal mucus. Keep the vaporizer near the cot or bed to get the full effect from the vapor. Be sure to empty, clean and dry the vaporizer each day to prevent the growth of bacteria or mold. Don’t use a hot water vaporizer because it can cause burns.

  • Consider using “normal saline solution” (salt water) nose drops if your baby’s nasal secretions are too thick. These are available at the pharmacy without a prescription. Tilt your baby’s head back gently and squeeze a couple drops of saline into each nostril to loosen the mucus. You can use a soft rubber infant suction bulb to suck out nasal mucus. Squeeze the bulb first, gently stick the rubber tip into one nostril, then release the bulb, sucking the mucus into the bulb. Squeeze out the bulb with the mucus into the sink, rinse out the bulb, then repeat for the other nostril. Afterwards, rinse out the syringe with warm soapy water and squeeze out the excess water so it dries properly. If your baby’s nose is too congested to feed comfortably, you can use the saline nose drops and suction bulb before feedings. Since the suction bulb can irritate your baby’s nose, try to limit how often you do this.

  • Don’t give your baby any medicines without consulting your doctor. Many medicines are not safe for babies, so only give medicine that your doctor recommends for the illness
  • .
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician