The Mayo Clinic reported that within the first year of life, a baby may get as many as seven colds. The clinic defines the common cold as a viral infection of baby’s nose and throat with primary symptoms of nasal congestion and a runny nose.

Babies have to develop immunity to common infections, so early exposure to older children and adults who may carry the cold germ can result in stuffiness and congestion. Cold medicine and over-the-counter remedies are not appropriate for infants. Not to worry though. Massage can help relieve congestion and help a baby breathe more easily.

Karen Stoner, owner of A Caring Touch: Massage Therapy, specializes in prenatal, infant and fertility massage and offers suggestions for helping a baby get through a cold via the power of touch. She explained that head colds typically settle in the facial area, causing sinus congestion, a drippy nose and sneezing.

“Massage helps everything flow and move, so any ‘bunched up’ congestion or fluids are encouraged to move through and more easily out of the system,” Stoner said. “The massage strokes can also help break up little pockets of phlegm or loosen packed fluids so they once again can get out more easily. Last, congestion in the sinuses can create that achy sinus pressure and headaches that we all know so well. So, gentle pressure on the appropriate pressure points around the sinus area can help relieve that throbbing sinus pressure.”

Stoner recommends using the fingertips to apply gentle pressure on the sinus points alongside the bridge of the nose and down either side of the nose, followed by long strokes with the fingertips back up along the same path.

“Similar pressure can be applied along the top ridge of the cheekbone, just under the eyes,” she added. “This can help relieve the sinus pressure and encourage mucus to flow out more easily or be removed more easily with a nasal aspirator.”

Occasionally, she applies similar strokes along the top ridge of the eye socket around the eyebrows. These small press and release motions, followed by long firm, but gentle, strokes along the same paths work to agitate and loosen, then sweep out the mucus.

“The biggest thing I tell parents is that fortunately, structure-wise, a baby’s face is very similar to an adult’s, just smaller,” Stoner said. “There is very little about the face or bone structure that will change as a child grows, so I encourage parents to use their best judgment as far as where and how to massage a small child’s face. Whatever pressure points or strokes feel good on their own faces when they have a cold or sinus issues will most likely work on their baby’s face.”

If a child is spiking a fever, has severe breathing problems, a rash or anything else out of the ordinary, Stoner strongly advises parents to call their pediatrician before doing massage.

“But if it is just a standard, run-of-the-mill cold, massage can help calm the baby and possibly ease the symptoms,” she said. 

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