How to Treat the Common Cold in Babies and Toddlers

Babies and toddlers are just as susceptible to the common cold as adults, if not more so. Since young immune systems are still developing, kids can experience the common cold more frequently than adults. What’s worse is that occasionally those colds may overlap, giving one family member a cold just as another is recovering.

While taking a trip to the pediatrician is never a bad idea, we will provide you with baby cold remedies you can implement at home and tips to help your baby or toddler recover faster. Even if a cold isn’t a serious viral infection, feeling under the weather is still uncomfortable and can sometimes lead to other illnesses like ear infections or bronchitis.

What Is the Common Cold?

The common cold is a viral, respiratory infection that primarily affects the nose and throat. Symptoms typically include coughing, sneezing, nasal congestion, watery eyes, low-grade fever, and general fatigue. Colds usually last one to two weeks before disappearing on their own—but can be made worse by other illnesses like the flu.

Generally, medical attention isn’t required to treat the common cold in babies or toddlers—unless symptoms worsen. However, there are several home remedies and steps you can take to lessen your baby’s discomfort.

Common Cold Symptoms in Babies

The signs of a cold in a baby are similar to those in an adult:

  • Sneezing and coughing
  • Stuffy nose and trouble breathing
  • Thick nasal discharge that can be clear, yellow, or green
  • Watery eyes
  • Low-grade fever
  • General crankiness, sleep disturbances, and fatigue

If your baby has difficulty breathing, a high fever lasting longer than three days, or other symptoms that don’t go away after two weeks, contact your pediatrician immediately.

How to Help Your Child Recover

If your infant or toddler is presenting symptoms of a cold, here are some tips to help your child recover more quickly and comfortably:

Keep Them Hydrated

Provide plenty of fluids such as water, breast milk, or formula to prevent dehydration and keep their mucous membranes moist. For toddlers, you can also try giving warm soups or other soft foods that don’t require much effort for them to chew and swallow.

Run a Humidifier

Using a cool mist humidifier in your baby’s bedroom can help keep their nasal passages clear and relieve congestion. The nose can dry up with a cold due to increased airflow and rough blowing, so humidifiers can help counteract that.

Give Them Plenty of Rest

Rest is essential for your baby’s immune system to fight off the virus. Make sure they get plenty of sleep and avoid over-scheduling activities. To help your child rest, provide them with a quiet and soothing space they can relax in without any distractions.

Elevate Their Head When Possible

Positioning your baby’s head slightly above their body when sleeping can provide a more comfortable sleep and help reduce nasal congestion. This can be accomplished either by holding your child upright and letting them nap on you, or by placing a folded towel underneath the head of their mattress. Just be sure to follow safe sleep practices, which depend on your child’s age and mobility.

Monitor Their Temperature

If your baby has a fever, monitor their temperature throughout the day and keep records of it to relay to your physician. If your child’s temperature doesn’t go down within a couple of days or goes over 102 degrees Fahrenheit, contact your pediatrician right away.

Cleanse Their Nose

A saline solution and a bulb syringe can help loosen thick mucus and clean your baby’s nose. This will help reduce the risk of further infections. Another great tool is the NoseFrida, aka the Snot Sucker. Gross as it sounds, it does wonders, and no – there is no risk of you swallowing any of it!

Make Them More Comfortable

If your baby or toddler is experiencing discomfort from their cold, try giving them a warm bath to relax their muscles and reduce congestion. Additionally, you can apply a warm compress to their chest or forehead and use a gentle, non-medicated massage to provide relief.

Additionally, you can keep their spirits up by reading their favorite books and just making sure to stay extra present while playing with them. Even while sick, playtime is extremely important for your growing child!

Maintain Cleanliness

We all get sick through germs. For this reason, keeping your baby’s hands and face clean is essential. Additionally, frequently wipe down toys and surfaces that your baby may come into contact with to help prevent the spread of germs.

Home Remedies and Over-the-Counter Medications

While home remedies tend to be harmless in nature for adults, babies and toddlers are a different story. Even for home remedies, it’s crucial to consult your pediatrician so you can discuss your child’s unique needs and circumstances.

That said, some swear by the benefits of taking elderberry supplements, others say a spoonful of honey goes a long way. However, as stated earlier, there are many factors to consider before you give your child anything willy-nilly. For example, honey is not recommended under any circumstances to infants under 12 months of age, and raw elderberry is toxic to humans of any age.

As for over-the-counter medications, do not give your baby any cold or cough meds unless directed by your pediatrician. Many of these medications contain ingredients that can be dangerous for babies and toddlers, so check with your doctor before giving any medication to your child.


Sadly, there is no way to completely shield your child from cold viruses. We get sick by interacting with germs, bacteria, viruses, and—you guessed it—sick people. Washing your hands frequently, especially after changing diapers, is the best way to keep your baby (and everyone else in the house) healthy and free of colds.

Giving your child proper nourishment, allowing them to exercise frequently, and lowering their stress levels are the best things you can do to make sure their immune system is prepared to fight colds.

Kiddi Kollege Is Here to Bridge the Gap!

While it’s difficult to provide everything your child needs during the busy work week, rest assured that Kiddi Kollege has your back! Our early childhood education centers throughout Johnson County offer safe and clean facilities, highly-trained teachers, top-notch curriculum, and balanced schedules to help your child stay healthy and active. Ready to see what we’re all about? Schedule a tour today!