How to Recognize Infant Congestion

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How to Recognize Infant Congestion

Jennifer Nelson

Written by Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer is a contributing health writer who has been researching and writing health content with PlushCare for 3 years. She is passionate about bringing accessible healthcare and mental health services to people everywhere.

October 3, 2018 / Read Time 2 minutes

When your baby can’t breathe, your whole world seems to stop. All you want is to help your baby feel better. What causes infant congestion? How can you treat it? When should you go to the doctor? Here are a few things you should know about infant congestion.

What is congestion?

Congestion is a buildup of extra fluids called mucus in the nose or airways. The resulting stuffy nose is the body trying to get rid of germs. Unless there is so much mucus that your baby is having a difficult time breathing or feeding, you can treat infant congestion at home.

Infant congestion symptoms

When the mucus is primarily in the lungs, chest congestion symptoms may include:

  • coughing

  • wheezing

  • grunting

When mucus is mostly in the nose, nasal congestion symptoms include:

  • Thick or discolored nasal mucus

  • Snoring or noisy breathing

  • Coughing

  • Sniffling

  • Difficulty eating

Infant congestion causes

Causes of chest congestion in infants can include:

Causes of infant nasal congestion include:

  • Allergies

  • Viruses, like a cold

  • Poor air quality

  • Dry air

  • Deviated septum, a problem with the cartilage that separates the two nostrils

Infant congestion risk factors

While any infant may develop congestion, some infants are at higher risk, including those who:

  • Live in dry or high-altitude clients

  • Have Down syndrome

  • Are exposed to irritants, like cigarette smoke, dust, or perfume

  • Were born prematurely

  • Were born to mothers with diabetes

  • Were born by cesarean section

  • Were born to mothers with a sexually transmitted infection (STI)

Infant congestion treatment

Luckily, there are many things you can do to treat your baby’s congestion at home. Infant congestion treatment includes:

  • Saline drops. After applying a few saline drops to each nostril, use a bulb to suck out the mucus.

  • Use a wet cotton swab to clear away dried mucus from your baby’s nostrils.

  • Use a humidifier in your baby’s room and be certain to clean it regularly to prevent mold buildup.

  • Tap your baby’s back when they are lying across your lap or held at a 30° angle to dislodge mucus.

  • Wait it out. As long as your baby is eating and breathing without a problem, not all runny noses need treatment.

  • A giving medications or using vapor rubs since most of these medications are not safe for infants.

When to see a doctor for infant congestion

As much as you try to treat your baby at home, sometimes it is necessary to take your baby to the doctor for treatment. If your baby shows any of the following symptoms, get them immediate medical care:

  • Severe breathing trouble

  • Grunting or moaning at the end of each breath

  • Looking panicked

  • Flared nostrils

  • Ribs pulling in with each breath

  • Breathing too hard or fast to eat

  • Blue tint to the skin, particularly around the nails and lips

Think your baby may be experiencing symptoms of congestion? Book an appointment with a PlushCare pediatrician and get proper treatment today.

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