Nasal congestion in babies and infants is not uncommon. It simply refers to a stuffy nose. It is a common misconception that nasal congestion is due to an abundance of thick mucus in the nasal passages. In fact, nasal congestion is due to the swelling of the tissue lining, which is, in turn, due to the inflammation of the blood vessels. Although it is not a condition, it is a symptom for an underlying disease, thus treatment is still necessary.
Babies and infants are nose breathers. Unknown to many the breathing through the mouth is a learned skill between young infants from four to six months of age. Hence, nasal congestion in infants younger than this may experience difficulty breathing. Moreover, if left untreated, nasal congestion can provide discomfort to the infant and interfere with hearing and speech development.
The information mentioned below is not to be used for diagnosis or medical advice. To learn how to treat nasal congestion in babies and infants and other respiratory conditions, enroll in Childcare First Aid and CPR courses,
Common Causes of Nasal Congestion in Babies and Infants
The nose acts as a filter to remove any impurities from the air inhaled such as, pollutants, dust, pollens, mold spores, chemical fumes, and germs, among others. When the nose senses these impurities, the immune system releases histamines, which increase flow of blood to the nose and lead to nasal congestion.
There are several causes of nasal congestion in babies and infants. Those that are caused by viruses and bacteria typically go away within a week. However, if it is caused by other conditions, it may last for a longer period of time.
- Viral or bacterial causes
- Common cold
- Sinusitis/ adenoiditis
- Other causes
- Hay fever
- Acid reflux
- Use of nasal spray or drops for more than three days
Symptoms of Nasal Congestion in Babies and Infants
Nasal congestion can be bothersome in babies and infants. Some of the symptoms generally associated with nasal congestion include:
- Nasal discharge
- Noisy nasal breathing
- Difficulty feeding the child
- Difficulty sleeping
First Aid Management of Nasal Congestion in Babies and Infants
Although it is not an emergency, first aid should be given to babies and infants experiencing nasal congestion to give them comfort.
- Buy saltwater (saline) nose drops or one can make their own at home simply by mixing ¼ teaspoon of salt into a ½ cup of lukewarm water.
- Lay the child on his or her back and place a rolled towel or blanket beneath the shoulders put two to three drops of saline noose drops in each nostril.
- Wait another 30-60 seconds before turning the child on his or her stomach to help drain the mucus. Use tissue or cotton swab to catch the nasal discharge. Do not insert anything in the child’s nose
- An aspirator (infant nasal bulb) may be used to remove the mucus.
- Allow the baby to sleep in an upright position such as, on a parent’s chest, in a car seat, etc.
- Ensure that the child drinks plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
How to Prevent Nasal Congestion in Babies and Infants
Although it is often caused by a viral infection, nasal congestion can still be prevented in babies and infants. Here are some methods:
- Before giving the baby a bath at night, sit the baby in the bathroom with a hot shower running. This is to create a sort of stem room. Do this for 15 minutes.
- While in the bath or sink, use the baby’s cupped hand to bring minute amount of warm water up against the baby’s nostrils.
- Use a warm mist humidifier while the baby sleeps.
- Avoid pasteurized dairy products, especially those that create food allergic reaction.
Lastly, to avoid nasal congestion in babies and infants, keep the play and sleep area relatively dust free.