The Case of the Baby Sniffles
A 6 month old baby boy is brought to the clinic by his mother saying that the child has had a stuffy nose and cough for the past week. She’s worried because he can’t seem to breathe through his nose and is not sleeping well at night. His appetite is normal and he continues to have plenty of wet diapers. He has had no fever, rash, vomiting, or diarrhea. The baby’s old sister also has a cold. On exam, the child has nasal congestion and an occasional cough, but is smiling and playful. His mother would like to know what medication she can give him to help him sleep better at night.
This baby, like many this time of year, probably has a simple upper respiratory tract infection. The fact that the child does not have a fever, is continuing to drink fluids, and appears well on exam, were all reassuring reasons why he probably just has the common cold. Generally, we do not recommend cough and cold medications for young children, such as antihistamines, cough suppressants, or decongestants. This is because there have been some reports of serious side effects, and there is little evidence that these medications work well in kids, anyway.
Instead, the best thing a parent can do is help clear mucus from their child’s nose to make it easier for them to breathe. You can simply squirt 1-2 drops of over-the-counter saline drops into each nostril, wait 10-15 seconds, then suction it back out gently with a bulb syringe. Consult your local pharmacist or pediatrician for more information.
During these dry winter months, another way to help with nasal congestion and cough is a humidifier. Purchase a cool-mist humidifier and place it in your child’s room at night while he’s sleeping. By adding moisture back into air, you can help ease a sore throat, stuffy nose, and nighttime cough.
The child’s mother was shown how to suction her baby’s nose and advised to buy a humidifier at the local pharmacy. Using these two simple remedies, the baby was able to sleep through the night. The child’s symptoms completely resolved within the next three days.
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