I'm seeing heaps of bubs with blocked up and snotty little noses. They're having a miserable time, not feeding well, not sleeping well and feeling thoroughly unhappy. So what can you, the parent do to make their suffering a bit less?
How to check if it is only a cold and not something more serious
My 'other' day job as a practice nurse involves triage and these are some of the questions I will ask a parent.
- A good starter is to check their temperature. A normal temperature is 36.5C to 37.5C. Anything higher indicates a more serious infection and maybe a virus.
- How many wet nappies have they had in 24 hours? Normal for a newborn is 4-5 very wet nappies in a day.
- Are they feeding? A very unwell baby does not take their milk feed. Solids are often sidelined when baby is sick but the fluid intake is a really good indicator of how unwell your bubba is.
- Have they vomited? Babies can get dehydrated very rapidly.
- Are they having trouble breathing? Check their colour and their breathing.
- Are they active and fairly happy? A very unwell baby is either very lethargic or crying a lot. It's extremes of the behaviour spectrum.
- Anything you're unsure about, contact medical advice or your GP.
A cold can last a week or so and babies catch colds every 4-6 weeks so it's good to know what to do to help your baby.
- Make sure they can breathe through their nose, as babies are naturally nose breathers and if their little nose is blocked, it will affect feeding and sleeping. http://www.livestrong.com/article/299700-why-are-infants-obligate-nose-breathers/
- It's good practice to put a couple of saline drops, up each nostril, before a feed and before going down for a sleep. Babies don't like this being done to them but remember this helps them breathe and as their parent you are taking care of their needs. http://www.fess.com.au/
- Keep their bedroom well ventilated and not overheated. If it's too warm that will block their noses up even more. 16-20C is a good temperature. An older baby doesn't really need overnight heating in their room. We tend to use heating more than the English did and it's nowhere near as cold down here in OZ!
- Use an aspirator such as NoseFrida if there are lots of thick secretions in the nose. Be gentle though as its so easy to irritate those delicate mucous membranes and sinuses.
- Don't use Vicks or eucalyptus essential oil (eucalyptus body rub) on their bodies or in a vaporiser/humidifier. It is too strong and may react/burn on the skin and nasal tissues. It has been linked to respiratory distress as it is thought using it on the nose and body can stimulate mucus production and so causes the thing it's trying to prevent. See more at this the link: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/135298.php
- Try using a Vaporiser or Humidifier especially at night. I love the Rainbow Mist as it's a cold water vaporiser and these are safer for babies and children - no risk of scalds and cold water doesn't harbour bacteria.
- If they have a temperature give baby Panadol up to 4 times a day, as directed. If a temperature persists and is not responsive to Panadol or baby is becoming more unwell seek medical attention.
- Make sure visitors practice good hygiene, washing their hands before touching the baby or using a hand sanitiser and not coughing or sneezing over the baby. Colds are passed on through droplet infection and poor hand hygiene. Teach young children to cough or sneeze into their elbow rather than into their hands or over people. Wash hands before handling bub, especially if you have a cold.
- They need lots of love and cuddles when they're sick. Sometimes sleep rules go out of the window. Just go back to their previous 'pattern' once they're healthy and thriving.
- Read more on the do's and don'ts of care including medication at this link: http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/colds.html
Babies are very resilient and they'll be back to normal in no time. Make sure that you as the parent practice a lot of self care. It's an exhausting time for everyone and it's important that you're strong and healthy to see them through it.