Complications of Common Cold in Babies

Although common cold causes very few, if ever, complications in adults and old people, but in babies and young children common cold may cause some complications. In fact complication is not uncommon among babies suffering from common cold. Complications that may arise due to common cold in children include acute middle ear infection (known as otitis media), sinusitis and secondary infection.

Otitis media:

This is a common complication of common cold among children. Otitis media is acute infection of ear (middle ear). It is estimated that approximately 5-15% of children with common cold may develop acute ear infection, some of which may be serious if not identified and treated promptly. If a child suffers from common cold, virus or bacteria may be able to reach the space behind ear drum (tympanic membrane) otitis media. The most common rote of entry of microorganisms (bacteria) to middle ear is via Eustachian tube. Once otitis media develop systemic antibiotic therapy is required to treat the infection.


This is another common complication of common cold in children and babies. Bacteria may infect sinuses (frontal sinus, maxillary sinus etc.) and lead to thick nasal discharge. Viral infection (same virus which case common cold or different virus) generally resolve spontaneously (without need of antiviral antibiotics) over time if there are no other associated complications. But most bacterial sinusitis require antibiotic course for treatment.

Other secondary bacterial infection:

Secondary bacterial infection as a complication of common cold may occur among children. Common cold leads to inflammation of mucous membranes of nose, throat, larynx, pharynx etc. In the inflamed areas bacteria may grow and cause secondary infection. Bacterial secondary infections that may occur secondarily include streptococcal throat infection, pneumonia, sinusitis etc. They need to be treated promptly, especially streptococcal throat infection. If streptococcal throat infection is not treated appropriately and promptly, it may lead to development of rheumatic fever in children which may be difficult to treat and also cause heart problem when child grows up.

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