Nasal congestion in babies is almost a universal phenomenon, which occurs in babies under 6 months of age. Nasal congestion is the result of inflammation of the blood vessels, which in turn causes the tissue lining the nose to swell. This inflammation results in blockage of the nasal passage, causing the baby to become very irritated, fussy and stay awake all night. Babies breathe only through the nose (since they can not breathe through the mouth for the first 6 months) and will insist on breathing through the nose, even if it is blocked. Babies need clear nostrils while feeding, since they have a nipple in their mouth. Therefore, a congested nose hinder their eating patterns, as they can not breathe through the nose. The inability to breathe properly causes irritation to the baby, which in turn affects and frustrates the mother, thus affecting the flow of breast milk. It is a vicious cycle.
Causes of nasal congestion in babies
Nasal congestion in babies is caused by more or less the same factors that cause nasal discharge. The causes of nasal congestion are the following:
- Cold and flu
- Common cold
- Allergies or hay fever
- Abnormally small nasal passage
- Sinus infection
- Continuous exposure to irritants
- Vasomotor rhinitis
- Excessive use of some nasal sprays or drops
Also, since babies are quite exploratory, they can catch a cold virus, by turning upside down or touching some toys, etc. Newborn babies have a developing immune system, making them more vulnerable to catching the common cold. Babies encounter 4-10 episodes of the common cold in their first year.
Is nasal congestion harmful?
Nasal congestion during the first months of a baby’s life not only interferes with eating and sleeping patterns, but can also interfere with their development of hearing and speech. On the other hand, episodes of not breathing while sleeping or snoring can also be seen during such periods of congestion. Nasal congestion in newborns should not be neglected, as it can cause life-threatening respiratory problems. It is different from the nasal congestion that occurs in older children and adolescents, where it is only a nuisance. Although it is not a serious problem, nasal congestion can cause flu, ear infections or even pneumonia.
How to treat nasal congestion in babies?
Because the baby only breathes through the mouth for the first six months, it is important to keep the baby’s nose clear, to avoid interruptions during sleep or feeding. In case of nasal congestion, you should buy a humidifier that maintains a certain level of humidity in the air. This will take care of the dry air that irritates the baby’s nasal passages.
For the most part, pediatricians recommend the use of saline nose drops to eliminate nasal congestion. However, these drops should also be administered only after consulting the pediatrician. With the aid of the dropper, insert 2 to 3 drops of saline solution into your baby’s nostrils (one at a time) and wait a minute until the dry mucus softens. Then use a nasal aspirator to suction the mucus. An infant nasal aspirator helps eliminate mucus in the nasal tract, when the congestion is severe. A nasal aspirator is a bulbous suction device that suctions the mucus from the nasal passages. Use the nasal aspirator before feeding it and before going to bed.
Another home remedy for nasal congestion is to raise the baby’s sleeping position. You can do this by placing a small pillow under the sheet in the crib. You can also have your baby sleep in the car seat. The raised position will prevent the mucus from blocking the nasal passages, which will allow your little one to sleep peacefully at night.
There are some over-the-counter medications, such as decongestants, that are available and that relieve nasal congestion. These decongestants reduce inflammation in the linings of the nose, thus relieving nasal congestion. These medications come in the form of aerosols and drops, however, they should not be used for more than 3 days. This is because excessive use can aggravate congestion. However, this is only suitable for the stuffy nose and does not treat the nasal discharge. You should consult with a pediatrician about the use of decongestants, since they are not good for children’s health.
Do not attempt any of these treatment methods without consulting the pediatrician. Babies are very delicate and any medication that is administered to treat nasal congestion in babies should be done strictly under the supervision of the pediatrician.