My Baby Has a Stuffy Nose! What Can I do to Help?

How To Get a Baby To Sleep Who Has a Stuffy Nose

Even though dealing with stuffy noses as adults can be enough of a challenge, don’t even let me get started on how annoying and worrisome stuffy noses are for babies. Babies can actually only breathe through their noses until they’re 3 months old, due to their lungs not being developed enough. It’s important to help your baby breathe through their nose, especially if they have a stuffy nose.

All you parents out there probably are asking the question: How do you get a baby to sleep who has a stuffy nose? Well, first let’s address the issue at hand. We need to try to de-clog their nose first. There are many different things that you can try such as dehumidifiers, saline drops, and other potential remedies. It doesn’t hurt to try to gently tap your baby on their back. Sometimes, it’s best to just let their stuffy nose run its course and wait things out.

Depending on your baby’s specific problem, the treatment will very. However, let’s go over some of the most well-known and most effective strategies to help decongest your baby’s nose and get them back to sleep!

Why Is My Baby’s Nose Congested?

Let’s address what congestion is first. Congestion is a result of excess mucus accumulation in the nose and various different airways. This is your body’s natural response to fighting infections and other illnesses. Congestion might give your baby a variety of problems, such as:

  • Stuffy nose
  • Trouble with feeding
  • Noisy breathing

It’s actually quite normal for babies to experience mild congestion. The important thing to be aware about babies and congestion is that sometimes they’ll need your help to get rid of congestion due to their developing lungs that are not strong enough yet. Your main goal will be getting rid of any excess mucus from your baby’s stuffy nose, all while keeping them as safe and comfortable as possible.

One sign that your baby might have a stuffy or congested nose is that they might be breathing more rapidly than normal. Because baby’s lungs are not developed yet, they tend to already breathe fairly quickly already. Compared to adults, babies take about 40 breaths per minute, while adults take around 12 to 20 BPM. That’s pretty much more than double or potentially triple what adults breathe.

If you do happen to notice that your baby is taking much more than 40 BPM or if it appears that they are struggling to breathe, immediately take them to emergency room.

While it’s uncommon, nasal congestion and other issues can eventually lead to something such as a sinus infection. Congestion might also give your baby some trouble with feeding as well. However, there’s a few simple ways in which you can differentiate viral and bacterial infections that your baby potentially has.

Important things to look at are things such as the color of their mucus. Let’s say your child has a runny nose. Mucus that is watery and clear could potentially come from a virus. However, mucus can have many different colors and consistencies, and usually the mucus will potentially turn green, yellow, or white for some days before it clears up.

Another potential reason for your baby’s congestion could be due to an allergy. In this case, you would need a doctor visit and potentially an allergy test to determine which allergy your baby is allergic to. Congestion can also be a result of something as bizarre as a piece of food or different object that’s stuck in your child’s nose somewhere. If this is the case, this will most likely need an emergency room visits or a trip to your pediatrician at the minimum. Definitely don’t try to take it upon yourself to remove foreign objects from your baby’s nose, as that’s something better left up to doctors. (common sense is great to have)

It’s possible that congestion can sometimes be an indicator of a much more serious issue. A standard stuffy nose that is caused by something such as a cold, can usually be addressed with saline drops, attention and care, and simply – time. If any additional symptoms occur that lead you to believe that it could be something much more serious, such as fever and thick mucus that is oddly colored, call your pediatrician ASAP.

Saline Drops

Using saline drops is one of best methods to treat your baby’s stuffy nose. Saline is essentially saltwater. A quick rinse can help relieve congestion and get rid of bacteria and other parts of viruses from your baby’s nose. You can even buy saline nasal spray, or you always have the option to make some yourself. Just use one quarter tsp of salt and one quarter tsp of baking soda in 8 ounces of water (preferably warm).

Start by putting a few drops in your baby’s nose. Once you’ve done that, use a bulb syringe to get rid of the mucus. Here’s how it should generally go:

  1. Begin by squeezing the syringe
  2. Next, put the syringe tip very slowly and lightly into your baby’s nose
  3. Slowly let go of the bulb, allowing it to suck up the mucus

Simply wash the ball when you’re done and that’s pretty much it. If you have an older child at about six months old, they’ll most likely be not too happy once they see the bulb. If you find that they are resisting too much and are simply too uncomfortable with you using it, then you can omit that step. What the saline does is thin the mucus out, which will make it easier for you to clear up yourself.

If you aren’t quite sure if you want to use the standard bulb syringe, or feel uncomfortable about it, there are alternatives that you can consider and use. There are even some “snotsuckers” that you can control with your breath, which a lot of parents prefer because it will give them much more flexibility and precision. People who aren’t fans of this are usually kids, because the increased power of it and control might be a little bit overwhelming to them. However, it’s worth trying multiple options if your first choice doesn’t work as well as you’d hoped.

Humidifiers

Something that might be causing your baby’s congestion could be air that is too dry. If the air is too dry in the area that your baby is usually in, then it causes problems with mucus in their nose and the general flow of it. By using a humidifier, it’ll allow your room to get some moisture in it which might help your baby’s sinuses overall.

Before you consider getting a humidifier, note that you need to keep it as clean as you can. You don’t want to let the inside of the unit get moldy, because you’ll end up making your baby even more sick than they were. Nobody likes mold, so it’s important to consider this factor.

Even though using a vaporizer is another option to help clear out your baby’s sinuses, a humidifier is a much safer option due to all the potential hazard risks that vaporizes can bring. If you suspect your room is too dry and could be at fault, I highly suggest getting a humidifier instead of considering a vaporizer. In comparison, as long as you keep the humidifier clean, it poses very little risks to you and your baby. This is why parents usually prefer humidifiers instead of vaporizes. Both try to achieve the same result, which is to bring your room’s humidity up and make the room less dry.

If you do decide to go with a humidifier, here’s a brief list of things to remember and consider:

  • Stability – Make sure that your humidifier is on a safe, flat, and secure surface that is far away from your baby to avoid any potential hazards.

  • Cleanliness – as I mentioned earlier, it’s very important that you keep the humidifier as clean as possible in order to avoid a mold build-up inside of it. If any of you have ever dealt with mold, you know that it’s not fun to deal with. However, you can avoid it entirely by keeping the humidifier clean. It’s a problem to be aware of yet one you can easily avoid!

  • Safe Location – You wouldn’t want to trip over the cord and cause harm to your baby or yourself at any point. Make sure that you plug it away far away and that it can accidentally be knocked over or tripped over by either you, your baby, or anyone else in your household.

  • Excess Moisture Is Just as Bad as Too Little – While it’s entirely possible that your room can be too dry, you can also make your room have too much moisture as well. Signs of excessive amounts of moisture are easy to spot. Wet surfaces or something as simple as condensation on your window in your room are clear signs of excessive moisture.

I personally recommend using the “Vicks Cool Mist Humidifier”

It’s a good humidifier simply because it needs no filter replacements, has a good battery, and gives about 30 hours or so of continuous usage. Plus, it automatically turns off, and is a cool mist humidifier and doesn’t pose any unnecessary safety hazards for me or my daughter. It’s a great safer alternative that’s just as effective!

Steam

Have you ever taken a hot shower and noticed how wonderful your nose felt afterwards – especially if you had a cold? This is why steam can be such a great option for even your baby. Steam helps by slowly loosening up the mucus in your nose, which will make it easier to breathe and is the main reason why you usually feel better when you have a cold after taking a nice hot shower. There are a few ways to go about this:

The most simple and cost-effective way is by running a hot shower, not keeping the fan on, allow the room to build up for a few minutes. Then all you need to do at this point is bring your baby into the room with you and sit down and simply let them breathe the steam in. Obviously, don’t let your baby near the hot water or let it come in contact with your baby as it will very likely burn them. Use your heads people!

What you can also do is run a very hot bath and simply leave the water in it and let it generate steam that way. Obviously, don’t leave them in the bath unsupervised, or if the water is too hot. I personally think using the shower method is the quickest and most effective method in comparison to the bath.

Using Cotton Swabs

it’s entirely possible that your baby’s mucus in their nose can be drying and creating additional congestion. This can make breathing much more difficult and cause your baby to be very uncomfortable. A simple way to address this issue is by dampening a cotton swab in preferably warm water, and use it to clean up your baby’s nose. It’s a quick and simple cleanup that your baby will appreciate.

Make sure that you don’t insert the cotton swab too far into their nose, as this can cause damage. Try to focus mainly on the outside, and just a little bit on the inside of their nose.

Keeping Hydrated

Ensuring that your baby is as hydrated as possible will help keep their mucus at bay. Above all else, don’t force them to be hydrated if they don’t want to. Something as simple as using a few sips throughout the entire day will give them quite a bit of help.

Giving Pats

A simple and also therapeutic way that you can help clear your baby’s congestion is to give some nice soft pats to their back. This could potentially help loosen up any mucus in their chest, as well as their nose, which will allow them to cough the mucus out.

There are plenty of safe ways that you can go about this. You can simply have them sit on your lap, lean forward, and give them some gentle pats. The important part is that make sure that you are very careful and don’t pat them too hard. Excessive force isn’t going to help the mucus get cleared any faster. So, it’s important to be as patient, loving, and gentle as possible.

Elevating Your Baby’s Head

By positioning your baby’s head higher than they usually are positioned, you can help get rid of a bit of the congestion from their nose this way. Simply hold your baby, and position them so that they can breathe more easily.

Don’t try to elevate their mattress at all, as it can increase the risk Of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) this way if they are younger than two years old. I definitely think that holding their head in an elevated position is one of the most simple and effective ways to help give them a different angle to breathe from.

Ensuring Your Home’s Air Quality Is Good

By having good air quality, you’ll be able to avoid any potential problems that come with nasty, lower air quality. Bad air quality can lead to various infections to your baby, and can pose a threat to their overall breathing. Here’s a few simple things you can do to ensure that you have a good air quality in your home:

  • Don’t smoke at all – in your home or near your baby
  • Ensure that your baby is away from any potential woodsmoke, such as from a fireplace
  • Make sure your house is not dusty
  • Don’t expose your baby to any foreign smells such as perfume
  • Don’t expose your baby to areas of car exhaust or fumes
  • Ensure that your home has an air purifier

By taking all of these into account, you’ll very easily seriously reduce your child’s chance of a sinus infection, and overall will reduce their risk of any illnesses related to air quality.

Signs of A Much More Serious Problem

Being a parent is hard enough, with the worrying and whatnot of your baby’s health and every little thing that you do. When your baby finally starts to crawl, the only thing that some parents think is how much more easily they can hurt themselves. It’s also terrifying once they begin their journey of putting things in their mouth, because that can mean a potential choking hazard for them. Regardless of all the different potential scary things that could happen to your baby, it’s important to remain as calm as you can regardless of what you think the circumstances might play out as. A lot of young babies have issues with congestion, and there’s a good chance that your child is no exception. There’s also a fairly good chance that it isn’t anything serious, simply because a  stuffy nose doesn’t always need a doctor’s visit.

However, there is always the possibility of a more serious problem at hand. It’s important for parents to be aware of any of these much more serious infections as they can lead to sometimes fatal results.

If you notice that your baby is wetting too few diapers, has a high fever, has excessive fevers or vomiting etc, get your baby to urgent care ASAP because these are more often signs of a more serious problem. This is especially true if they’re under three months old because their immune systems are not yet developed and they’re fairly weak still at this point.

Breathing Signs That You Should Get Your Baby to An Emergency Room or Call 911 Include:

  • Grunts or moans after each breath
  • Extremely red nostrils
  • Bluish tint to their skin, mostly near nails and lips
  • Breathing way too fast or too hard
  • Panicked or distressed expressions

If your baby experiences a fever exceeding 100.4°, contact your pediatrician immediately. If you notice that your child starts to have a barking cough, if they are having difficulty with eating or drinking, or if you notice that their symptoms are present for more than 10 days, contact your pediatrician immediately.

Things to Avoid

Some parents might think that giving them cough medicine, or just a little bit of what they usually take for a cold is a smart idea. However, the exact opposite is true. Do not give your baby cough medicine or something like Benadryl!

It’s simply not worth the risk – exception being ONLY IF your doctor gives you the go-ahead for it. Babies and young children often have adverse responses to medication, and frequently, they can’t handle it.

Some children might also have unintended reactions to medication, such as increased energy. If your goal was to try to get them to be more tired after giving a medication, there is a chance that the exact opposite can happen.

Benadryl’s also another terrible option for babies and children who are younger than two years old, because it’s not tested, and the side effects can be unpredictable. There is also no recommended standard dose to follow. It simply isn’t worth the risk.

It isn’t even worth giving your children Benadryl to treat colds either. The St. Louis Children’s Hospital advises that Benadryl should not be used for colds for children under four years old. There’s also been evidence that these cold medicines do very little to treat the problems associated with a cold, yet have a risk of various side effects that can be serious. There have been over 50 children who have died between 1969 2006 from decongestions. While that number may seem low for the time span, it’s still possible, and it CAN happen to anyone of us.

Even though each and every infant can react differently to medications, it’s simply not worth risking your baby’s health and well-being for something as simple as a cold. Not only that, but your child could also be allergic to various medications. If you do intend to give your baby a medicine, or have the go-ahead from a doctor, it’s generally a good idea to give them a medicine while you are home with them and can determine how they react to it first. In the event that something does go wrong (I certainly hope not), you’ll at least be able to be prepared to bring your baby to a hospital, in comparison to if you weren’t home and gave them it. You wouldn’t want to give them medication when you aren’t near home or in an unfamiliar environment.

Remember that there are always children’s formulas of medication specifically designed for them. Talk to your pediatrician whenever you have a question about a medication or consider using it. Always follow medication precautions, instructions, and rules to avoid the risk of injury or other harm.

FAQ

Is it okay for me to gently rub my baby’s face for congestive relief?

Rubbing your little one’s face is actually a great way to help give them some relief. It’s a safe, and generally unobtrusive way to get them some relief. By gently rubbing their sides of the nose, bridges their nose, and cheeks, you’ll be able to gently soothe your baby and help with congestion.

Are vapor rubs safe for my baby?

No. Vapor rubs have been known to be harmful for children who are younger than two years old. This is because they often contain eucalyptus, camphor, or menthol. These are unsafe for babies and young children alike.

Remember, as long as you determine that the cold is not something more serious, it’s definitely worth trying to wait it out and deal with it in a safe, and gentle manner free from medications. Only use medications if you have permission from your pediatrician or doctor. You wouldn’t want to cause your baby even more harm while they’re dealing with a cold or stuffy nose. The risk to reward ratio is simply not worth it, and there are plenty of natural ways you can give your baby some congestive relief!

About the Author Elizabeth

Hi everyone, I'm Elizabeth. My beautiful daughter Alice keeps me awake occasionally...but when I'm busy and can't sleep, I post parenting tips and different ways you can get your baby to sleep soundly through the night, and even naps!

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