Does your little one have a stuffy nose? A congested nose or chest can be quite uncomfortable for babies, and it can make them, as well as you, pretty miserable. Changing their diapers and cleaning their nose is a common rite of passage into parenthood, and every parent at some point or another has to face this (and I promise it gets easier with time!)
Congestion occurs when there’s extra fluid accumulated in the baby’s nose and airways. This is the defense mechanism of the body to fight foreign particles such as dust or air pollutants. Mild congestion is very common in babies and is usually considered harmless, but it can become quite uncomfortable for the baby and her caregivers. It can cause stuffy/blocked nose, wheezing, trouble feeding and sleeping, rapid breathing, a runny nose, coughing, watery eyes, and sneezing. The main causes of congestion in babies are viral infection like cold, weather change, inhaling dust or air pollutants, allergies, asthma, flu, or a deviated septum. Ways to decongest your baby are to provide warm baths, steam, cool air through a humidifier, 1 or 2 drops of saline in the nostril under supervision, remove potential allergens like pets air, smoking or burning candles, use of bulb syringe before feeding to remove excess mucus from nostrils.
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What causes congestion in babies?
It’s really astonishing how much gunk is held up in your child’s nostrils, but on the other hand, it’s absolutely normal. Their stuffy nose is a way of their body producing extra mucus in the nose to prevent entering and trapping foreign particles like dust and air pollutants.
Your baby can also have nasal congestion if exposed to cold weather or sudden weather changes, and dry air. Exposure to a viral infection such as cold, allergies, and smoking can also trigger blocked nose and congestion. A deviated septum where the cartilage is misaligned, making one nasal passage smaller than the other, can also cause frequent nasal congestion.
If your baby is teething, she can have a runny nose because of the inflammation of the mouth and gums, but if she has nasal congestion, it is likely to be the common cold.
Also, you need to remember that your baby’s lungs and immune system are still developing, so catching a viral or bacterial infection is more possible in babies than in older kids or adults. This is completely normal and is not a cause of alarm.
But, congestion that develops further into the baby’s chest can indicate serious illnesses like asthma, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, flu, and cystic fibrosis. Premature babies are also known to have more congestion than full-term babies.
Symptoms of congestion in babies
There are various symptoms of nasal congestion, and symptoms will also differ from one baby to another. It can also be difficult to tell where the congestion is as their teeny-tiny little airways are not too far apart.
Major symptoms of nasal congestion are…
- Runny nose or blocked nose
- Decreased appetite due to a stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Noisy breathing
- Watery eyes
- Sudden snoring while asleep
- Fussiness or crankiness
Home remedies to decongest your baby
If your little one’s nose is dry, congested, and irritated, then follow these remedies to make your baby comfortable again.
Use a Saline spray
Before you buy a nasal saline drop, ask your doctor which brand they recommend. You can buy the saline drop at any pharmacy or most grocery stores.
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Lay back your child. Put a towel or a rolled-up cloth under your baby’s shoulders. Put 1 to 2 drops of saline into each nostril to help loosen the mucus-filled up nose. Please wait for 30 to 40 seconds before you drain her nose.
Then follow some tummy time for your baby to drain their nose. Your baby might cough or sneeze to remove the mucus. Gently wipe the mucus outside the nose with a tissue or a swab. Don’t insert the cotton swab inside the nostril to clean the mucus.
If you cannot run to the store, you can make saline water at home by taking one cup of warm, filtered water and adding a ½ teaspoon of salt. Make sure to cool the solution before you use it.
Follow this method before your baby starts feeding.
Use a bulb syringe
You can use a bulb syringe, a.k.a a nasal aspirator, to suck out the snot from your baby’s nose. This will work best if your baby is less than 6 months old. Older babies will fuss and reject this process.
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Make sure not to be aggressive with such tools if your baby is resisting; it’ll only do more harm than good. If your baby doesn’t let you do this, stop then instead of forcing, and try again when after some time.
How to use a bulb syringe…
- Wash all parts of the bulb syringe under running water
- Squeeze the syringe first before placing it in your baby’s nostril.
- While being squeezed, place the tip gently into your baby’s nostril.
- Release the bulb slowly.
- Clean the tip onto a tissue paper
- Wash it with soap and water after each use.
Use a Vaporizer or Humidifier
Place a cool-mist humidifier near your baby’s crib. Don’t use a hot-mist humidifier, as there’s a risk of your baby enduring burns after tripping on it. The cool-mist vaporizer will add moisture to the air and help your little one breathe properly.
Make sure to clean the vaporizer regularly so that molds are not formed. Don’t smoke near your baby; inhaling smoke can also cause congested nostrils.
Steams can work wonders for babies as well as adults to relieve them from nasal congestion. Turn on the hot water in your shower and sit with your baby on your lap in the bathroom for 10-15 minutes.
The steam will help loosen the mucus and unblock your baby’s stuffy nose.
Give your baby warm baths to help them loosen the stuffed up nose and help them breathe comfortably. The playtime in the water will distract your baby, and the warm water will help relieve congestion.
You can use natural rubs and massage onto your little one’s chest. Take their moisturizing lotion, add a few drops of essential oil and massage it on their chest to help them sleep well.
You can also gently massage their eyebrows, cheekbones, and hairline to help them calm down. When your baby is irritated and fussy, your touch can be quite soothing for them.
Your baby can’t sleep at night due to congestion
Babies have a difficult time sleeping at night with a blocked nose and increased irritability. They may have a hard time lying horizontally, so prop your baby up and hold them for a little while, while they sleep.
Don’t place their head on a pillow or incline their mattress; this can increase the risk of SIDS and block their airway. Take turns with your partners at night and hold them upright; this might let them get some sleep and be calm.
Medicine for baby’s stuffy nose
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests that babies under the age of 4 shouldn’t have a decongestant as it can pose potentially life-threatening risks. Most cold medications are not recommended for infants.
Vapor rubs are a big no-no for babies as they contain menthol, camphor, or eucalyptus, which are proven dangerous for kids under 2 years old.
Remember, increased mucus in your baby’s nostrils is just a way of the body’s efforts in removing the virus, and it shouldn’t be a matter of concern unless it’s troubling your little one to breathe or eat.
When to see a doctor
Well, hopefully, your baby’s block nose will be short-lived and will be gone in some time, but visit your child’s pediatrician if your baby doesn’t get any relief and the symptoms worsen after a couple of days.
Visit your doctor or go to the emergency room if your baby…
- Has a fever of 100.4°F or higher.
- Has trouble breathing – rapid or hard breathing.
- Shows signs of dehydration.
- Has fewer wet nappies in a day.
- Has nasal discharge beyond 5-10 days.
- Has trouble feeding.
- He keeps on pulling and tugging his ears (signs of ear infection).
- Has flaring nostrils.
- Has blue tint to the skin near lips and nails.
- Ribs pulling in with each breath.
Well, most cases of congestion will be minor and should clear up within a few days. If you’re concerned about your baby’s health, don’t hesitate to call your child’s doctor. A relieved and calm parent is the best type of parent to take care of their child.
In times like this, it is necessary that you don’t panic, breathe in and help your child with whatever she needs. It’s most likely that you will not get a good night’s sleep, but I guess it’s alright, considering that parents won’t even be able to sleep if their child is sick at night.
Follow the remedies suggested above, and make sure to love your child more when they are ill. They might be clingier or less playful and not themselves; take this time and hold them close and love them.
Located in India and a mother to a joyfully mischievous son, Kelin is the wife of the world’s most patient man and a busy homemaker. When she’s not busy cooking and running after her kid, you can find her in a corner reading, or penning down words on her laptop. She believes the world will always try to instil ‘mom guilt’ in new mothers, but she goes by the maxim ‘a mother knows best’.