Baby coughs, cold, and illnesses

Baby Coughs, Colds and More

Our handy reference table for common childhood illnesses will help you to work out your best course of action when your child is unwell.


Illness Symptoms Treatment
* Usually affects babies in their first 12 months.
* Viral respiratory infection
* Passes via coughing, sneezing and direct contact (eg tissues.)
* Runny nose, sneezing and fever
* Cough develops over a couple of days.
* Wheeze on outward breath.
* Difficulty breathing – laboured breath with chest rising more than normal.
* Visit your Doctor for advice
* If your baby is having trouble breathing seek urgent medical assistance.
Chicken Pox (Varicella-zoster virus)
* Highly contagious
* Spread through direct contact with person or lesion or droplets from coughing or sneezing
* Contagious period from 2 days before the rash develops until all blisters have formed a dry scab.
* Incubation period is 10-21 days after exposure.
* Avoid contact with pregnant women.
* Fever, sore throat and headache.
* An itchy skin rash over the whole body.
* Rash-small blisters surrounded by pink areas.
* Blisters will gradually burst and form a scab (about 5 days after appearing).
* Blisters may appear in the mouth.
Treat the symptoms:
* Give Paracetamol/Ibuprofen
* Cool baths
* Cool cloth compresses
* Topical cream (ask your pharmacist for advice) Complications can arise – see your Doctor if concerned.
Common Cold
* Upper respiratory Tract Infection
* Sneezing coughing
* Direct contact
* Contagious until symptoms clear
Any or all of:
* Blocked or runny nose
* Sneezing
* Sore throat
* Cough
* Headache
* Fever
Treat the symptoms:
* Plenty of fluids
* Give Paracetamol/Ibuprofen
* Nasal spray or drops. Ask your pharmacist for advice
Visit your doctor if:
* Ongoing high fever
* Breathing difficulties
* Intense headache
* Stiff neck
* Lethargic
* Inflammation of the membranes in the eye.
* Highly contagious and can be passed via hand to eye contact or via cloth to cloth.
* Incubation period is a few days up to a week.
* Discharge from the eye, white or yellow in colour.
* Eyes may be stuck together after sleeping.
* Eyes may be itchy and irritable.
* May appear blood shot.
* Seek medical advice; antibiotic drops may be necessary
* Use a sterile cloth or fresh cotton wool that is moistened with saline solution and bath the eye from the outside in towards the nose.
* Wash your hands after each treatment.
* Do not share towels or cloths while discharge is present.
* Breastfed babies rarely become constipated- it is not unusual to have 7-10 days between bowel motions.
* More likely to occur in bottle fed babies
* Older children can be constipated after the introduction of new foods as their bodies adapt to it.
* Infrequent stools and
* Difficulty passing stool and
* Hard pellet like stools and
* Pain on passing a stool and occasional bleeding from the rectum.
* Increase fluids
* A warm bath
* Raise legs and gently move up and down
* Increase fibrous foods (older children)
* Regular exercise
* Allow time to sit on the toilet with no pressure or time constraints
* Massage the stomach area
* If this is a regular problem seek medical advice
* Usually part of, or follows on from, an URTI.
* Contagious until symptoms clear.
* The cough may be dry or produce mucous
* Similar to a cold
* Look for signs of whooping cough, croup, bronchiolitis or pneumonia.
* Increase fluids
* If a bacterial infection is present; antibiotics may be used.
* See your doctor if symptoms persist or you’re concerned.
Cradle Cap
* An oily secretion from the scalp.
* Yellow crust or scale on scalp.
* May have an unpleasant odour.
* Soften the crust with a mild moisturizer or oil.
* Leave on overnight and wash off. The crust may need to be assisted off the scalp with gentle rubbing or by using a fine tooth comb.
* A viral illness causing acute inflammation of the upper respiratory tract.
* Commonly affects young children and babies.
* Involves airways becoming swollen and narrow
* Passed via coughing and sneezing
* Symptoms peak on 2nd or 3rd day.
* General cold symptoms at first
* Barking cough (sounds like a seal)
* Hoarse voice
* Breathing is noisy.
* Symptoms are usually worse at night.
Severe symptoms include:
* Difficulty breathing
* High fever and drooling
* Initial treatment is to place the child into a steamy room. Run the hot taps in the bathroom or laundry. Beware of scalds.
* See your doctor if you suspect croup.
* If it is a severe attack call an ambulance (000 AUS or 111 NZ).
* Sleeping close by to your child is often a good idea.
* Can occur very quickly in babies as a result of repeated vomiting, diarrhea, heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
* Listless and apathetic
* Eyes and fontanelle will appear sunken
* Urine output is decreased
* Skin will remain gathered after being pinched
* Dry mouth with increased thirst.
* Seek urgent medical attention.
* Try to maintain or increase the intake of fluids to prevent dehydration from occurring.
* Give electrolyte solution.
* A viral or bacterial infection that can be passed via hand to hand contact.
* Cramp and abdominal pain.
* Loose and explosive bowel motions.
* Frequent watery motions
* May be discoloured
* Possible dehydration
* Seek medical advice.
* Be vigilant with hand washing hygiene to prevent spreading the infection.
* Continue to breastfeed and maintain fluid levels.
* Give electrolyte solution. To older children.
Ear infection
* Usually a viral infection with occasional secondary bacterial infection.
* Often follows a cold (URTI)
* Inflammation of the lining of the middle ear.
* Ear pain
* Fever
* Irritability
* Loss of appetite
* See your Doctor for advice.
* Antibiotics are only useful if it is a bacterial infection.
* Treat the symptoms
* Paracetamol or ibuprofen may help
* Warm compress on the ear
Febrile Convulsion
* These occur in a small percentage of babies and can be brought on by a sudden rise in temperature.
* Loss of consciousness or awareness.
* Body becomes stiff or floppy.
* Body begins to twitch or jerk.
* Your child may be disoriented or drowsy after the fit has finished.
Your immediate reaction:
* Remove anything that may cause injury.
* Stay with your child.
* Place in the recovery position
* Seek medical advice.
Call an ambulance if:
* Your child has difficulty breathing
* Remains unconscious after the fit has finished
* If the fit lasts longer than 5 minutes
* If your child has a second fit following the first.
* May be caused by a viral or bacterial infection.
* Young babies can have a fever from being over heated.
* Occasionally follows routine immunizations.
* Your baby is considered to have a fever when your baby’s temperature rises above 37.5oC
* High temperature is considered to be over 39oC
* Baby may feel hot to touch.
* Baby may shiver or feel very hot.
* Rapid rise in temperature or prolonged high fever may cause a febrile convulsion.
* Treat the symptoms with paracetamol or ibuprofen to make your child comfortable.
* Remove excess layers of clothing.
* Bath with a tepid sponge/cloth (water should be around 37oC)
* Increase fluids
Seek medical advice if
* Your newborn presents with a fever.
* A high fever is present or,
* Has difficulty breathing or,
* Is lethargic and non-responsive or,
* Has a rash
* You are concerned.
Flu (Influenza)
* Sneezing coughing
* Direct contact
* Contagious until symptoms clear
Symptoms may include:
* High Fever
* Chills and sweating
* Headache
* Weak and tired
* Joint pain
* Loss of appetite
* Chesty cough
Treat the symptoms:
* Plenty of fluids
* Give Paracetamol/Ibuprofen
* Nasal spray or drops. Ask your pharmacist for advice
Visit your doctor if:
* Ongoing high fever
* Breathing difficulties
* Intense headache
* Stiff neck
* Lethargic
* You are concerned in any way
* This can be a viral or bacterial infection.
* Can be a serious disease in young babies due to dehydration.
* Vomiting and diarrhoea
* Abdominal pain and cramps.
* Fever
* Dehydration can result.
* May have blood in the stool.
* Continue to breastfeed and offer extra water or electrolyte solution.
* Replace formula with water or electrolyte solution until vomiting stops.
Seek medical attention if:
* Symptoms persist for more than 24 hours
* You suspect dehydration
* You are concerned in any way Be vigilant with hand washing.
Impetigo (School sores)
* A bacterial skin infection.
* Highly contagious via direct contact until sores have dried completely (around 3-5 days).
* Bacteria usually enters the skin via a cut, insect bite or other sore.
* Begins as small blisters.
* These burst and form a crust.
* Consult your Doctor.
* Often antibiotic ointment and medicines are prescribed.
* Cover weeping sores with a non-stick dressing.
* Be vigilant with hand washing.
* Wash bedding and clothing daily
* A viral infection spread by coughing and sneezing from infected persons.
* Symptoms develop 1-3 days following exposure.
* Fever
* Cough (dry or with mucous)
* Muscle and joint pain
* Weak and lethargic
* Headache
* Loss of appetite.
* Symptoms may last for 7-10 days.
* Dehydration can occur quickly
* Treat the symptoms with paracetamol or ibuprofen to make your child comfortable.
* Increase fluids.
* Watch for signs of secondary infection- repeat of fever, sore ears, pneumonia.
* Be vigilant with hand washing.
* Contact your doctor if you your child does not improve or you have any concerns.
Meningococcal Meningitis
* Highly contagious
* Acute bacterial infection
* Life threatening
* Inflammation of the spinal cord and brain
* Followed by Septicemia (blood poisoning)
* Passed by coughing, sneezing, kissing, sharing drinks and food.
Not all of these symptoms may be present:
* Severe headache
* Fever (that may not respond to paracetamol)
* High pitched cry
* Fatigue, drowsy, lethargic
* Stiff or painful neck
* Sensitivity to light
* Fontanelle bulges
* Convulsions.
More serious symptoms:
* Vomiting
* Cold hands and feet
* Cold shivers
* Severe aches or pain in the muscles, joints, chest or abdomen
* Rapid breathing
* Diarrhea
* Later stages, a pinprick or purple bruise-like rash
* Seek urgent medical assistance
* If you suspect Meningococcal Meningitis insist on rapid treatment
* Vaccination is available as part of the routine immunization schedule
Prevention includes:
* avoid sharing cups and eating utensils and toothbrushes
* Babies and toddlers should be discouraged from sharing toys that have saliva on them.
* Do not share a dummy or allow anyone to place it in their mouth to clean it.
Molluscum contagiosum
* A viral infection
* Highly contagious via contact with shared water (bath or pool).
* Small raised spots that appear similar to small warts. Spots will usually last for about 3-6 months. * No treatment is necessary as these will clear up by themselves.
* Contact your doctor for confirmation.
Non- Specific Viral Rash
* Caused by a viral infection.
* Usually appears as a red rash across the body.
* Usually lasts only a few days.
* May be accompanied by other symptoms.
* Confirm with your doctor.
Pneumococcal Meningitis
* A Bacterial Infection passed via Sneezing , Coughing and saliva transfer
* Vaccination can help prevent the risk of infection. See our Immunisation Chart.
Your child may present with some or all of the following:
* Fever
* High Pitched cry in babies
* Sensitivity to bright light
* Vomiting
* Headache
* Stiff neck
* Bulging fonatanelle in infants
* Joint and/or muscle pain
* Irritability
* Drowsy/disoriented
* Loss of consciousness
* Seek urgent medical attention
* A viral infection
* High fever for about 3 days
* Loss of appetite.
* Swollen lymph glands in the neck
* Followed by a rash (pink/red spots) all over the body.
* Contact your doctor for confirmation of the rash.
* Manage the symptoms with paracetamol/ibuprofen and cool sponges.
* Increase fluids
Rubella (German Measles)
* A viral infection
* Can have serious consequences if a pregnant woman comes into contact with Rubella for her developing baby.
* Highly contagious via coughing or sneezing or direct contact.
* Infectious period is 7 days from before onset of the rash and up to 7 days after the onset of the rash.
* Incubation period is 15-20 days.
* Mild fever
* Mild rash on body, neck and face.
* Joint pain
* Swollen glands
* Headache, cough, cold.
A vaccination is available as part of the routine immunisation schedule to prevent the disease.
* Make comfortable with paracetamol/ibuprofen.
* Increase fluids.
* A parasite infestation.
* Also known as pinworm.
* Infection occurs after ingesting a pinworm egg.
* Worm eggs can survive outside the body for up to 14 days, usually in dirt or dust.
* Itchy bottom
* Loss of appetite or fussy eating
* Worms may be visible in stools or from the anus at night
* Seek medical advice
* Be vigilant with hand washing.
* A fungal infection.
* Caused by the abnormal growth of yeast, Candida albicans.
* Infection can be transmitted by direct contact.
Oral Thrush:
* Sores inside the mouth.
* A build up of cottage cheese like discharge from the mouth.
Topical rash:
* Often occurs in the nappy region and folds of the skin nearby.
* Distinct red inflamed rash
* White spots (pustules) may be present
Seek medical advice.
Oral Thrush:
* Antifungal drops or gel by prescription
* Your nipples may be infected as well so should be treated.
* Teats from bottles may need to be discarded or will need to be thoroughly sterilized.
Topical rash:
* Your doctor may prescribe an anti fungal cream. Follow their directions.
* Allow nappy free time.
* Use a nappy that draws urine away from baby’s skin.
Urinary Tract Infection
* A bacterial infection.
* Occurs more frequently in girls.
* Untreated UTI can cause damage to the kidneys.
* To prevent infection always wipe from front to back during a nappy change.
* Unexplained high fever
* Increased urine output.
* Painful or burning sensation with urination
* Offensive odour
* Older children may have daytime and nighttime accidents.
* Can only be confirmed by a urine analysis.
* Seek medical advice.
* A urine sample will need to be taken.
* Antibiotics may be necessary
* Increase fluids.
* Follow up investigations may be warranted.
* Usually caused by a viral infection.
* The main concern for an infant or child suffering from vomiting is dehydration.
* Stomach cramps followed by an episode of vomiting.
* Often accompanied by diarrhoea.
More serious symptoms that need urgent medical attention:
* Vomiting after a head injury
* Vomit is bright yellow or green
* Vomit contains blood
* Constant stomach pain
* High fever is present
* Dehydration is evident
* Continue to breastfeed and offer extra water or electrolyte solution.
* Replace formula with water or electrolyte solution until vomiting stops.
Seek medical attention if:
* Symptoms persist for more than 24 hours
* Your child is unable to retain clear fluids.
* You suspect dehydration
* You are concerned in any way.
* Be vigilant with hand washing.
Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
* A bacterial infection
* Highly contagious to an un-immunised child.
* Spread via sneezing, coughing and direct contact
* Contagious period is from onset of symptoms to no symptoms are present (up to 3 months)
* Incubation period is 5 – 15 days after contact with an infected person.
* Initial symptoms are similar to a common cold.
* Cough develops where child may have a coughing spasm lasting for a minute or more.
* Characteristic “whooping” sound as the child tries to draw breath.
* Difficulty breathing
* Face may turn red or blue
* May vomit after an attack.
* May have no other symptoms between attacks.
* Seek medical advice
* Prevention through the routine immunisation schedule is recommended.

For more information see Baby cold or Baby care

16/09/21 - min Read

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