This article has also been published on 360Moms

“Dr. Linda, last year my toddler caught a cold in October and kept it all winter. Now I have a newborn, is there anything I can do to prevent baby’s first cold ?”

There are two main ways to prevent baby’s first cold:

The first is to lower your baby’s exposure to infectious agents and the second is to make your baby’s immune system as strong as possible.

Newborn babies (less than 3 months of age) have immune systems that are still developing. They can deal with the less aggressive bacteria and viruses present on their skins, in the air they breathe and in food. They’re not as efficient at dealing with more aggressive infections like the common cold, RSV, Influenza and, rotavirus which are, for the most part, winter/spring viruses.

Symptoms of the common cold in newborns:

The common cold, the least severe upper respiratory infection, can still make newborns very miserable because babies up to 2 months of age only know how to breathe out of their nose. The large amounts of mucus they make blocks off their noses and makes it very difficult for them to breathe, eat and sleep so they get fussy and irritable. Babies can also get a low-grade fever, sneezing, and cough.

Since any temperature of above 100.4 F (38C) in a newborn should be checked out by a doctor, many babies with the common cold end up in doctor’s offices where they could be exposed to other more aggressive germs while they wait to be seen.

Influenza and RSV are both more severe forms of upper respiratory infection and may cause fever, runny/stuffy nose, cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, pneumonia and apnea (the baby stops breathing). Young babies have a much higher chance of needing to be hospitalized than older kids. Both of these infections often start out looking like the common cold but progress quickly the more severe symptoms .

Tips to prevent baby’s first cold

Avoid situations with a high potential for exposure.

Practice strict hand hygeine.

Talk to your doctor about cocooning your young baby.

Consider doing nasal washes during cold/flu season.

Take good care of yourself.

Avoid situations with a high potential for exposure to germs:

Places with high potential for your baby to get exposed to respiratory illnesses are public places like grocery stores and malls as well as large gatherings of people such as schools, daycares, places of worship and large family gathering.

If you have to take your newborn out to public places here are some guidelines to keep him/her safe:

Guidelines for taking baby to public places during cold/Flu season:

Cover baby’s carrier up so nobody can sneeze or cough on him by accident. Make sure to use a cover that allows good air circulation so your baby can breathe well.

Avoid going near anybody who is obviously sick.

Don’t let strangers get too close to your baby.

Carry hand sanitizer  to clean your hands before touching your baby. Viruses like RSV can live on surfaces for days. If you touch a surface someone sick has sneezed or coughed on you risk giving the virus to yourself or your baby.

Make sure that anybody touching your baby washes their hands before touching him/her.

Do a nasal wash after you take baby out to public places.

Hand Hygiene


The reason handwashing is so important to prevent baby’s first cold is that touch is the most common way colds are spread, and most respiratory infections can be spread before symptoms appear so you may not know when you’ve been exposed!

Proper handwashing technique:

Yes, there is a proper way to wash your hands!

  • Wet your hands under clean running water.
  • Use a small amount of soap on your hands and lather it up. You don’t need to use antibacterial/viral soap, it is the rubbing and the rinsing actions that get rid of the germs.
  • Rub the lather over every part of your hands including between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  • It’s important to continue to rub for 20 seconds. Try singing the happy birthday song twice to know you’ve spent enough time.
  • Dry your hands with a clean cloth/paper towel and throw it out. Avoid using the hand driers.

Hand sanitizer:

If you don’t have access to water you can use hand sanitizer. The right way to use hand sanitizers is as follows:

  • If there is mucus or other visible material on your hands wipe it off first.
  • Squirt the sanitizer on your hands.
  • Rub it on every part of your hands until it’s completely dry.

Nasal suctioning:

Doing a nasal wash physically removes germs from your baby’s nose after exposure to germs. It has been shown to lower the incidence of upper respiratory infections.

When to do a nasal wash:

  • After your baby has been exposed to viruses: After daycare, preschool, or family gatherings.
  • At the end of each day during cold and Influenza season if your baby has been in public or around sick people.

How to do a nasal wash:

  • Squirt 1-2 drops of sterile saline into baby’s nostrils. If your baby is less than 2 months old, don’t put the saline in both nostrils at the same time, do one nostril and then do the other one.
  • Compress the bulb of the bulb syringe with your thumb before putting it in baby’s nose.
  • Place the tip of the syringe gently in your baby’s nostril till the crease of the nostril and then and release the pressure.
  • This will wash off the lining of the nose and take the germs into the syringe. Repeat this step if any saline is left in the nostril.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Note: your baby will not like this whole nasal suctioning thing very much so be patient and get help if you need it so you don’t hurt the lining of your baby’s nose.

Cocooning your young baby to prevent baby’s first cold.

This is done by doing everything possible to keep the people around your baby healthy so they don’t get sick and transmit the infection to the baby.

Take good care of yourself. Next week’s blog will be about self-care for parents. Many parents forget how important it is to take care of themselves because they’re not taught how to do this or why it’s important. Studies have shown that the healthier parents are, the healthier their kids will be. The better nourished and rested you are the less chance there is of your getting sick and bringing it home to the baby! Since self-care is so important I’m making it the subject of a series of blogs. Next weeks will be about natural metiods of self-care for the physical body

If you are not anti-vaccine, immunizing all the people who will come into contact with the baby against Influenza is another way to cocoon babies.

Strengthening your baby’s Immune System:

A strong immune system helps prevent infections and makes it easier for your baby to recover if they do get sick.

The best way to keep your newborn’s immune system strong is to breastfeed as long as you can. Breastfeeding transmits protective antibodies from your blood to your baby and , it helps your baby develop healthy gut bacteria which are an important paart of their immune systems

If you can’t breastfeed talk to your doctor about choosing a formula that contains DHA and probiotics, both of which help keep babies healthy.

Think Positive:

Stress lowers the immune system responses to germs. and makes people more prone to infections. After delivery, you and your baby are under quite a bit of stress. Worrying about getting sick just adds fuel to the fire and makes you even more stressed and more prone to infections. Instead of worrying that your baby will get sick, use your energy to affirm that your baby and family are healthy and will stay healthy through cold and Flu season.

Take good care of yourself.

In next weeks blog, we’ll go through some ways you can make sure you get what you need in your diet to keep your immune system working at it’s best capacity

As always I would love to hear from you . Please post your comments and questions below. If you’d like to talk to me one on one, please check out my online second opinion practice. 

Have a happy, healthy day,