When Your Baby Has a Scratchy or Sore Throat


When your infant or toddler isn’t feeling well, it can be hard to figure out what their symptoms are and decide when it is time to get medical help. When a scratchy throat is involved you will often have a little one who is fussy, their cry might sound a bit dry or scratchy and they might not be very interested in eating or drinking. In this case, we are only talking about a scratchy or sore throat without a runny or gunky nose, or other symptoms.

As always, with an infant under 3 months old, if your baby has a fever, head to the doctor, go to the emergency room if the fever reaches or exceed 100.4. In children 3-6 months you should call your doctor if they have a fever and head to the doctor if the fever is at 101 or higher and with children over 6 months head to the doctor for a fever over 103. You should also call your doctor or go in if you little one is:


  • excessively cranky
  • has sores in their mouth or throat
  • has a bright red throat
  • there is puss on the throat
  • the throat is swollen
  • it seems difficult for your child to swallow, or their breathing becomes labored


You should also pay attention to how often your little one is wetting their diaper and watch for signs of dehydration. If something seems really off, trust your instincts and put a call into your pediatrician.

Most of the time a scratchy throat on its own is not a cause for alarm. Most often it’s caused by a viral infection, which there isn’t any real treatment for except doing everything you can to make your little one comfortable.

Sometimes sore throats can be caused by bacteria, but if that is the case your child will probably have a fever, puss in the throat or one of the other symptoms that would send you to the doctor. For most colds and viruses. if you have a child that is still nursing, cuddling up in bed with your baby and letting them nurse frequently is the best treatment available. Spending more time nursing isn’t just comforting to your baby, but studies have shown that breastmilk changes when your baby is fighting off an illness, providing your baby with some of the immune boosts they need.

Kakulas and colleagues outlined in a 2013 article in Clinical and Translational Immunology how breast milk has a higher number of leukocytes, which can help fight infections when mom or infant are sick.

If your infant isn’t breastfed, you should still spend extra time snuggling and cuddling as this will not only help comfort your baby, but it helps boost the immune system which can help your baby fight off the infection. In cases where your young one is old enough to have apple juice, freezing some apple juice and making little ice pops can help sooth a sore throat, but never leave your young child unattended with an ice pop since young children can choke. You can also use Pedialyte pops to help sooth a sore throat.

One of the other reasons your infant might have a scratchy throat is thrush. Thrush is an overgrowth of yeast that can occur in the mouth and throat and can be very irritating to your baby. If you are nursing you might notice a tight itchy sensation, dry flaky skin or your nipples might have small white patches or small blisters.

Often Thrush will happen after your baby has been ill and on antibiotics, though thrush can occur all on its own, without a reason. There is a simple, easy, all natural treatment for Thrush that is safe for your baby. Gentian Violet is recommended by the Mayo Clinic and their website has a great guide for treatment, which includes swabbing the affected area with a Gentian Violet solution. Many nursing moms have found if they swab their nipples immediately before breastfeeding, then have their baby latch, that treats both mom and baby at the same time. The one problem is that Gentian Violet will stain anything it comes into contact with purple.

If you have ruled out illness and thrush, the cause of your babies scratchy or sore throat might be something as simple as dry air. This can be especially problematic during the winter when the air has less moisture and heating can cause even more moisture loss. Adding a humidifier to the room or rooms your baby spends the most time in, can quickly and easily solve the problem.

Irritants and allergens can also cause a scratchy throat. Things like cigarette smoke, pet dander, dust, molds and pollen can all be irritants. If this seems to be what is causing your child’s scratchy throat do everything you can to eliminate the sources of the irritants. It may be impossible to eliminate all of the sources of irritants or allergens, but an air purifier can help if the scratchy throat becomes chronic. Of course there could be other causes for a scratchy throat in an infant or toddler and if it persists you should talk to your pediatrician to find out how to give your little one relief and understand the underlying cause of the scratchy throat.

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