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Treating Baby’s Blocked Nose

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We tend to panic the second our baby has a sniffle. Unfortunately babies are even more susceptible to coughs and colds. Their immune systems are not as developed as adults, and, as there are more than 200 strains of the common cold, it can feel as if a runny or blocked nose is a permanent fixture for your little one. Most babies and children will average between six and 10 colds per year, more if your child is in school or crèche.

Babies breathe through their noses so nasal congestion can be incredibly distressing for them and will generally affect sleep, which leads to more upset. Feeding patterns can also become unsettled and erratic, particularly for breastfed babies, who breathe through their nose whilst feeding. It’s a tiring and frustrating circle for all concerned.

Why do babies get blocked noses?

Stuffy noses or nasal congestion occurs when the tissues inside the nose become swollen or produce mucus. As they were surrounded by fluid in the womb, many newborns have stuffy noses, and they will often sneeze for a couple of days as they try to get rid of the leftover fluid. This is completely normal. Dry air, irritants such as dust, cigarette smoke and perfumes, or viral infections can also cause a blocked, irritated nose.

How to soothe an irritated nose?

Here are some things you can try to help ease the congestion:-

  • Using an infant nasal saline spray will help to clear the nose and soften any dry or thick mucus, so that it is easily removed. Often babies will clear their nose by sneezing, so be sure to have a tissue to hand. If the weather is really cold, you can warm the saline solution by popping into your bra or warm the bottle in your hands for a few minutes before administering.
  • Using a nasal aspirator, which draws out the mucus before a feed, will extract stubborn blobs of mucus. There are many different types so there will be one that works for you and baby. Admittedly it doesn’t sound very appealing or glamorous but the results are quite impressive.
  • When you lie your baby down to sleep, raise the head of the Moses basket or cot by placing a thick book under its feet. You don’t want to pop the books under the mattress as this will cause the mattress to buckle and be uneven. It is important to keep your baby’s back nice and straight while sleeping to protect your baby’s spine development.
  • Steam therapy is also very popular, especially in the evening before a bath. Close the bathroom door and run the hot water tap or shower for a few minutes to create a steam room effect. Just ensure that your baby’s clothes are nice and dry before you put him to bed. As your baby is still young, the use of oils is not encouraged unless suggested by a GP.
  • Keep your baby hydrated. This can be a challenge, as it is harder or more unsettling for babies to feed with a blocked nose. But good hydration will thin the mucus in the nose. Use the saline spray (steps above) to try and clear congestion to try and clear congestion before feeding your baby.

Could it be something more serious?

The biggest worry for most parents is that it could be something more serious. If your child has a blocked or runny nose, a cough, generally seems unwell and has a temperature over 37˚C/98.6˚F, chances are that he has a cold.

If the illness comes on quite suddenly, and is accompanied by vomiting or diarrhoea, it may be the flu, and if you see no signs of fever, allergies may be to blame for the coughing and sneezing. Any temperature above 37.5˚C/99.5˚F is considered a fever. Should your child have a fever of 40˚C/104˚F or over, you should call your doctor immediately. You can spot a fever, as your baby will have flushed cheeks, his skin will feel hot to the touch, and he will be irritable.

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