Nasal congestion is a common problem in many babies. With the nasal lining often being more sensitive than in older children, adolescents or teens, a baby’s nose is more likely to become congested. Excess mucus is secreted by the nasal lining and may not drain away as easily. Furthermore the immature immune system means that babies are prone to infections and allergies which can contribute to nasal congestion.
The lining of the nasal cavity produces mucus. This is a normal process to moisturize the nasal lining and trap environmental dust or microbes in the inhaled air. However, the mucus production can sometimes be excessive and this may then congest the nasal cavity.
If the excessive mucus dries in the nasal cavity then the congestion can be difficult to remove, especially from a baby’s nose. Allergies, infections, environmental changes and various irritants like dust or allergens like pollen can be responsible for rhinitis which is inflammation of the nose. Nasal congestion is a common symptom.
Read more on dried nasal mucus.
Ways to Decongest a Baby’s Nose
Nasal decongestion may be simpler for older children, teens and adults. Decongestants are widely available over the counter but most cannot be used on babies. Therefore parents should always consult with a pediatician for medication to decongest a baby’s nose. However, there are several ways that can assist with reducing nasal congestion in a baby and do not require medication.
These are simple measures that can be done without medical supervision and may offer immediate relief. It may not be a long term solution when there is chronic nasal congestion or for infections. Medication may still be necessary both in acute and chronic cases. Nevertheless these simple ways to decongest a baby’s nose can still be done alongside any prescribed medication. Never use medicated decongestants on babies as it can be dangerous.
Use Steam in a Safe Way
One of the simplest and very effective ways to decongest a baby’s nose is with steam.This is similar to a humidifier in some respect. Never place baby’s head near a commercial face steamer or near any boiling water to inhale the steam. This can be dangerous for several reasons. Also avoid saunas if one is available. The steam may be excessive and the heat can raise baby’s body temperature rapidly.
A quick and easy way to do use steam to decongest baby’s nose is to turn on the hot water faucet in the bathroom and let the water run for a few minutes. Steam up the bathroom and close the faucet. Hold baby up while standing or let baby sit upright in the steamed up bathroom for a few minutes. Do not steam up the bathroom excessively and do not let baby near the faucet or any hot water.
Use a Saline Nasal Spray
A saline nasal spray is another simple and effective way to decongest babies nose. These sprays do not have any medicines within it but is made up of sterile fluid with dissolved salts. Saline nasal sprays are available over-the-counter (OTC) without a prescription.
Baby sprays have a smaller and shorter spray tip to comfortably fit within baby’s nose. Do not try to use adult nasal sprays. Some contain decongestant medication which are not suitable for babies. Adult sprays also have a thicker and longer tip which can hurt a baby’s nose.
Use a Nasal Aspirator
Nasal aspirators are convenient devices for removing nasal mucus. However, the mucus cannot be too thick or have solidified into nasal crusts in order to be removed with an aspirator. The device uses suction to draw out the mucus, thereby clearing the nasal passages to some degree.
A nasal aspirator may create this suction through two methods – a bulb that can be squeezed to remove air before being inserted into the nose, or with a mouthpiece which allows the parent to suck on one end. These devices should only be used after the nose has been moisturised, possibly with a saline nasal spray.
Keep A Humidifier in the Room
A humidifier increases the moisture in the air. These electric devices produce water vapor which is ideal for dry environments. However, even in humid climates it can be beneficial for babies who have a congested nose. It should be kept in the room where the baby spends most of the day and night.
Although these devices do not produce hot steam, it should nevertheless be kept away from the baby. Crawling infants or toddlers in particular must not be able to reach the device. The constant stream of water vapor produced by the humidifier will increase the air moisture and does not need to make direct contact with the baby.
Let Baby Sit Up, Move and Cry
As far as possible, let baby sit upright when awake. This will allow the mucus to drain out of the nose with the help of gravity, either through the back of the throat or through the nostrils. Allowing baby to move around can also be helpful in aiding mucus drainage rather than baby being confined to the bed.
While parents do everything possible to prevent a baby from crying, it can be beneficial for mucus drainage to allow baby to cry for short periods. Crying increases fluid production iwhich can help with flushing out the nasal cavity. However, baby should not be made to cry purposely.
Avoid Any Irritant or Dehydrating Factors
Certain substances can irritate the mucosal lining of the nose and increase mucus production. Dust, smoke and even strong odors are some of the common irritants. If baby has allergies then dog hair/fur and pollen can also be a problem. It is therefore important that baby is not exposed to these irritants or allergens.
Similarly some climatic conditions can also be a problem and cause excessive drying of the nose. This may seem desirable but causes hard nasal crusts which can be difficult to remove from baby’s nose. Direct exposure to an electric fan or being an air conditioned room should therefore also be avoided.