Week by Week

Treat Your Baby’s Stuffy Nose

By Medically reviewed by Dr. Duyen Le

Treating a stuffy nose in a child younger than 3 years old can be a big challenge. There is no way to know exactly what causes the congestion. Your baby may just have a cold. Or they may have other underlying medical issues. For children this young, treatment options are also limited. Cold medicines can be highly dangerous.

Figure out what causes the stuffiness

Nasal congestion (commonly known as a stuffy nose) happens when the blood vessels and tissue in your baby’s nasal cavity fill up with too much fluid. It can make your baby have sleeping difficulty and result in problems like a sinus infection (sinusitis). Some babies also have trouble feeding when congested.

How to tell a viral infection from a bacterial infection?

If your baby has a runny nose, you should look at the discharge. A viral infection often comes with white and watery discharge at first. Then, the mucus may turn white, green, or yellow for a few days before it turns clear again.

Common causes of congestion

Sometimes, congestion is caused by an allergy. Or, it might result from a foreign object stuck inside the nose. This requires medical care. You should not try to remove anything from your baby’s nose, except for mucus.

How to treat a stuffy nose

One of the safest and most effective ways to fix a baby’s stuffy nose is using a saline (salt water) spray or nose drops. If you choose to use nose drops, place a couple of drops in each nostril to loosen the mucus inside. Then, quickly use a suction bulb to suck the saline and mucus out. Squeeze the bulb before you put it in your baby’s nose. That way, when you release, the bulb will pull out mucus from inside. If you squeeze when the bulb is already put inside the nostril, it will push air into the nostril, which could result in the mucus getting farther into the nasal cavity. You should do this at least 15 minutes before feeding time or bedtime so your baby can breathe more easily. You should not use nose drops that contain medicines. Plain saline drops are advisable. You just need to make sure you wash and dry the bulb carefully after each use to avoid giving your baby an infection and worsen the condition.

When to call a doctor?

You need to seek medical help if:

  • Your baby is congested for more than 2 weeks
  • Your baby is younger than 3 months
  • Your baby has severe coughs, fever, ear pain, and/or rapid breathing.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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