Sick baby? Sleepless nights? It may be just a simple cold or even teething. Our experts advise on how to cope with your baby’s congestive nights.
When faced with a sick baby –even if it’s just a common cold – it’s understandable that moms feel anxious and, at times, a little helpless. A cold can make your child miserable and feel uncomfortable, thanks to nasty symptoms such as fevers, congestion, coughs and runny noses. This often means a string of sleepless nights for both you and your little one.
Studies have shown that it’s not unusual for babies and young children under the age of eight to contract up to 10 viral colds a year, especially during the colder months. And with the average cold lasting up to 10 days, that’s a long time to cope with a sick baby. There is good news though. “When a baby gets a cold, the immune system produces antibodies to fight it, which lingers to make the immune system strong enough to fight the next infection, says pharmacist and complementary medicines expert, Giulia Criscuolo.
Coping with a sick baby with a cold
What can you do to survive the winter and get some much-needed shut-eye? Criscuolo has the following tips:
- Keep your child’s room warm but not too hot as this can worsen congestion.
- Use a cool mist humidifier with a few drops of eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender or thyme oil and run it for a few hours at night and during your child’s nap times.
- Place a thin pillow between the crib springs and the mattress, so the mattress is slightly inclined to help the mucus drain down the throat.
- Treat fevers by placing your child in a lukewarm bath or sponge him down with lukewarm water.
- Ensure your child stays hydrated and gets enough fluids throughout the day and at night. This will help his body fight the infection.
- Make a natural chest rub by mixing one or two drops of eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint and lavender essential oils into a carrier such as coconut oil. Rub a small amount onto your child’s chest and under his feet.
- To soothe a sore throat, make a hot water drink with a dash of turmeric, lemon juice, honey and ginger. This is only suitable for children over a year old.
- Herbal teas such as oregano, sage and thyme also relieve the symptoms of a cold.
- Chicken soup, for children six months and older, provides essential nutrients for the immune system.
Skip cough and cold medicines
Most over-the-counter medicines to treat coughs and colds aren’t recommended to children under the age of two, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. This is because many of these products contain more than one ingredient, increasing the chance of accidental overdose and side-effects. As an alternative, they recommend using a simple bulb syringe and saline nasal spray to clear stuffy noses plus plenty of TLC. Caring and comfort is one of the best medicines for your child.
Tips to treat teething pain
How babies experience teething in the first two years can vary widely, says paediatrician at Life Fourways Hospital, Dr Dewald Buitendag. If your child seems abnormally fussy at night, has white, puffy gums or is drooling excessively, there are a few things that you can do to soothe his teething pain:
- Rub his gums with a clean finger. This gentle pressure can ease his discomfort.
- Let him chew on a cold teething ring or dummy. These should be cooled in the fridge, not the freezer.
- Some parents find that amber teething necklaces relieve teething pain. There is, however, no convincing scientific evidence that these work, says Buitendag. If you decide to use one, your child shouldn’t suck or chew on it, as this can cause choking.
- Try teething gels and powders. A small amount rubbed onto his sore gums has a brief numbing effect. Make sure these are sugar-free and specifically made for babies.
- If your child won’t settle at night, paracetamol and ibuprofen are safe to use for mild pain and fevers associated with teething. Paracetamol can be used from three months of age and ibuprofen from one year of age, adds Buitendag.
Find more teething tips here
When eczema is the culprit
In their book The Allergy-free Baby and Toddler Book (Vermilion), Charlotte Muquit and Dr Adam Fox say irritated skin leads to itching and then scratching, which leads to more irritation. “Itching is particularly problematic when your child is asleep because conscious control of scratching is lost. And, you are not there to stop them,” say Muquit and Fox. They suggest to reduce skin irritation, use cotton clothing and bedding, mild detergents and mild prescription soaps and shampoos. Also keep your child’s fingernails short, the bedroom cool and try putting mitts on his hands at night-time to prevent excessive scratching and rubbing.
Before bedtime, Muquit and Fox suggest to give your baby a lukewarm bath with a non-soap replacer. After you’ve patted your baby dry, apply steroids and wait at least 30 minutes before you use moisturiser or emollient. They say steroids must be prescribed and you must follow the directions precisely. Also don’t apply steroids just after moisturisers as steroids create a barrier over the skin and stop the moisturisers from working. When choosing skincare products for your baby, speak to a dermatologist who will prescribe a regime personalised for your child’s skin. It is impossible to prescribe a particular emollient for your baby, and you’ll have to find out which ones work through trial and error. But, in general, stay clear of any products that contain perfume, soap, alcohol or those that are abrasive. Muquit and Fox also suggest to consider using antihistamines to promote sleep and reduce scratching at night, but always seek medical advice first