Infant Colds and Infant Congestion
One of the unfortunate facts of life is that sooner or later, everyone gets a cold. The fever, runny nose, and coughs are all a part of life. The good news is that colds are rarely ever fatal, or even serious. The only people that are ever at risk for serious issues are the elderly, the very young, and people with compromised immune systems. If you have babies less than 1 year-old at home, or frequently babysit, it is not a bad idea to take some extra precaution, and learn a little bit.
What we call the common cold is actually a disease caused by one or more of any of over 200 types of viruses known as rhinoviruses, that specifically target the upper respiratory system. The viruses are transferred primarily by airborne droplets of mucous and saliva. They can also be transferred by direct, and indirect contact, such as kissing an infected person, or drinking after them...anything that could bring you into contact with an infected persons mucous or saliva. The virus incubates for up to 16 days, at which time it can still be transferred to others. After symptoms develop, the virus spreads by causing an excess of mucous secretions, and coughing and sneezing. This causes the spores to be sprayed into the atmosphere in a sort of aerosol, contaminating any other person it touches if it can get into the upper respiratory system. Symptoms are fever, runny nose, cough, sneezing, headache and fatigue. There is no cure for the virus, and treatment involves managing the symptoms. The symptoms usually last 7, to up to 25 days, then disappears with no lasting effects. The viruses can survive for a surprisingly long time outside of the body. Babies are especially good vectors for these viruses because they can't cover their mouths and noses when they cough and sneeze, allowing a much greater spread of spores. Extra caution should be exercised around babies with colds to prevent exposure.
Babies are especially susceptible to catching infant colds, because their immune systems have not developed enough to fight off the viruses. It is not uncommon for babies to have 7 or more colds within their first year of life. But, believe it or not, the colds are actually important in strengthening the babies immune systems. For the most part, treatment involves managing the fever, and treating infant congestion. Infant congestion is more problematic for babies than in older children, because babies favor breathing through the nose for the first 6 months of life, even when blocked by infant congestion. Infant colds are also more likely to be spread to others in the household unless precautions are taken.
The best way to treat infant congestion is to simply remove the excess mucous from the babies nasal passages periodically with an aspirator. These are very inexpensive, and there are many types to choose from. There are simple bulb syringes, manual-suction devices, electric (battery) powered units, and even one that uses your vacuum cleaner to power the suction ( with a regulator to keep the vacuum to safe levels....). They all work well, with the Arianna Baby Vac (www.mybabyvac.com) being especially good. They are all easy to use, and are cheap enough so that there is no reason not to have one in your home if you ever have babies there, yours or anyone else's. In addition to making your baby more comfortable, and able to breathe easier, they reduce the risk of exposure to others significantly.
When infant colds strike, there is no better way to treat infant congestion than with a good nasal baby aspirator.
Nothing in this article is to be taken as medical advice of any kind. It is for informational purposes only. If you feel your child has a health issue, seek the advice of a licensed physician.