Baby Congestion: What to Know

Baby Congestion: What to Know

Baby congestion is common and, most of the time, will clear up on its own in about a week. Here are some tips on how to deal with newborn congestion.
No parent wants to see their baby with a blocked nose.

But unfortunately, baby congestion is common, especially in newborns.

The good news is that it’s usually harmless, and your little one should recover within a week.

Let’s take a look at what baby congestion is all about, how to identify it, and what you can do to make your baby feel better.

In this article: 📝

  • What is newborn congestion?
  • What causes newborn nasal congestion?
  • What are the symptoms of congestion in babies?
  • How do you treat a congested baby?
  • Can babies suffocate from a stuffy nose?
  • When should I worry about newborn congestion?

What is newborn congestion?

Congestion means that there’s extra fluid or mucus in your — or this case, your baby’s — nose and airways. It’s the body’s defense mechanism against irritants like pollution and viruses.

This mucus makes these irritants more likely to get trapped and prevent your little onefrom getting sick.

Older children and adults tend not to be bothered by congestion as much as babies.

That’s because babies have super-small nasal passages.

Plus, their lungs are still maturing, which they will continue to do until your little one is about three years old.

What causes newborn nasal congestion?

There are two different types of congestion: nasal congestion and chest congestion, both of which babies can get.

Nasal congestion is usually caused by allergies, viruses such as colds, dry air, and poor air quality.

Sometimes, it can also be caused by a deviated septum, which means that the cartilage that divides your baby’s nostrils isn’t aligned.

Chest congestion isn’t as common as nasal congestion and can have slightly more serious causes.

These include asthma, bronchiolitis, flu, pneumonia, and cystic fibrosis.

It can also be caused by a short-term respiratory problem called transient tachypnea — but this usually only happens in the first day or two after birth.

If your baby was born early, they might be more prone to congestion than full-term babies.

What are the symptoms of congestion in babies?

The symptoms your baby experiences will differ depending on the type of congestion they have.

If your baby has nasal congestion, you might find they have the following symptoms:

  • Thick mucus in their nose
  • Yellow or green mucus
  • A blocked nose
  • Sniffing
  • Coughing
  • Snoring

They could also be having trouble eating — it’s not so easy to suck if you can’t breathe through your nose at the same time!

Keep an eye on your baby’s diaper.

If they’re not wetting it a few times a day, it’s a sign that they’re not eating enough and could be dehydrated.

If this happens, call your doctor.

If they have chest congestion, they might be:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Grunting

If your little one has any signs of chest congestion, it’s best to speak to your doctor.

How do you treat a congested baby?

Your little one is too small to blow their nose, so how do you decongest a newborn?

Unfortunately, you can’t make baby congestion disappear in a flash.

But you can make them as comfortable as possible while they get better. Here are some tips and tricks to help you:

  • Drop a few drops of saline solution into their nostrils. A drop or two of OTC saline solution in a syringe can help loosen mucus. Some mamas also use a drop or two of breast milk in the same way.
  • Use a suction bulb. After you have applied the saline solution, you can use a suction bulb. You can get these from your nearest drug store. Squeeze the bulb first before carefully inserting it into your little one’s nostril. Once inside, slowly release it to suck out the mucus. Be very gentle during this process.
  • Wipe away excess mucus. Use a soft, dry tissue or cloth to wipe your baby’s nose if it starts to run.
  • Put a humidifier on. A cool-mist humidifier in your baby’s room might help clear the mucus a little. You can also run a hot shower and sit in the steamy bathroom for a little while every few hours if you don’t have a humidifier.
  • Pop them in a warm bath. Warm baths can help clear congestion and are also a good distraction if your little one’s a water baby.
  • Give them a gentle massage. Your baby might find a tender massage on their forehead, temples, cheekbones, and nasal bridge soothing.
  • Pay attention to your environment. Remove anything that could be aggravating your baby’s congestion, including aerosol and hair sprays, cigarette smoke, paint or gas fumes, pet hair, and dust.

Wondering if you can give your baby any medicine? Sorry, mama, that’s a hard no.

Children under the age of four can’t take medicines used to treat colds, and even after this age, only if their doctors recommend it.

Menthol rubs, like Vicks VapoRub are also out for now, as studies have found that they can be harmful.

Best to stick with the options above.

Can babies suffocate from a stuffy nose?

If your baby is battling to breathe, call 911 straight away.

These are the signs that they are struggling:

  • They’re breathing quicker than normal
  • Their lips or nails are turning blue
  • Their nostrils are getting larger with every breath

But if your baby’s nose is just a little bit blocked, and they’re still able to breathe through it and their mouth, they should be absolutely fine.

While they have congestion, pay attention to how they sleep.

If your baby’s nose is stuffy at night, you might find that they don’t sleep as well and may cough in their sleep.

Don’t prop them up on a pillow, though, the way you would if you had a cold.

Using blankets and pillows can increase the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and suffocation.

Keeping them upright while they sleep will likely involve staying awake (sorry, mama!).

Rally any support you have around you for this one.

When should I worry about newborn congestion?

Nasal congestion is usually nothing to worry about and should clear on its own within a few days to a week.

In some ways, this little episode is a good thing — it’s helping to strengthen your little one’s immune system.

But call your doctor straight away if your baby is:

  • Battling to breathe
  • Struggling to feed
  • Feverish
  • Looking panicked
  • Congested for more than ten to fourteen days

If your baby is younger than three months old and you suspect they have a cold, speak to your doctor.

When babies this young get colds, the infection can quite quickly progress to croup, pneumonia, or bronchiolitis — so it’s best to be on the safe side.

Hang in there, mama. We hope your little one’s on the mend soon!

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