New Health Guide

Baby Blocked Nose (6 Causes and 5 Treatments)

Feb 02, 2015

Babies naturally inhale and exhale through their nose; so when it becomes blocked, they experience great discomfort. Your child will convey his irritation by crying, fussing and making snorting or snuffling noises. It is hard for a baby to breathe through his mouth as he is predisposed to do so through his nose. A baby blocked nose usually occurs when nasal passageways are inflamed or swollen. Common causes can range from anywhere between a cold and allergies to irritants and foreign objects. It is important to recognize serious symptoms so you know when to call your baby’s doctor or even 911.

Are There Associated Symptoms for Baby Blocked Nose?

A baby blocked nose can be very bothersome to newborns and even older infants. Babies are naturally nasal breathers, so any type of nasal congestion can be very uncomfortable for them and frustrating for parents. Typical symptoms to watch out for in your baby include:

  • Having a hard time eating
  • Unwarranted crying or fussiness
  • Nasal discharge
  • Loud nasal breathing
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Indication of fever
  • More comfortable when sitting upright
  • Sniffing or snorting
  • Loud snoring
  • Excessive sneezing
  • Phlegmy cough

What Might Be Causing Baby Blocked Nose?

Many parents automatically think their child is getting sick when they have a blocked nose baby, but that is not always the case. Your infant’s nasal congestion can be caused by numerous factors, so it is important to check all the accompanying symptoms as well. Some causes of a baby blocked nose can be simple to remedy, while others may require your pediatrician’s attention.

1. Dry Air

A newborn blocked nose can be caused by exposure to dry air during the winter or in desert climates. They have tiny noses with narrow nasal passageways that get irritated easily by dry air. When this happens, your baby’s breathing may become noisy due to dried out nasal secretions. Even though the cause is not technically nasal congestion, it can be confused for such as an infant’s breathing can sound similar in both situations.

2. Irritants and Allergies

Your baby’s nasal passage is made up of delicate tissues that irritate easily. As babies breathe, irritants like dust, cigarette smoke, chemical fumes and dust enter their nose and can result in nasal congestion. If this is the cause of a blocked nose, it may also be accompanied by a clear nasal discharge.

Another common cause of nasal congestion is allergies. Your baby’s nose can easily become blocked as pollen, mold, animal hair or house dust gets into his airways, throat and eyes. Food and medication allergies can cause nasal discharge and congestion as well. If left untreated, allergy symptoms can last weeks or even months, especially if they are seasonal like hay fever or caused by a constant irritant like a shedding dog.

3. Upper Respiratory Tract Infection

A baby blocked nose is a common symptom linked with an upper respiratory tract infection, which is often caused by a cold or the flu. Due to an immature immune system and the easy transmission of viruses by hand-to-nose contact, your baby can experience up to 10 colds during his first year. While a cold is a nuisance, flu can be much more dangerous. It generally involves more serious symptoms like a headache, fever and muscle aches. Sometimes a cold or flu can cause secondary bacterial infections in your baby’s ear or sinuses. In this case, your pediatrician will prescribe an antibiotic.

4. Enlarged Adenoids

Adenoids are glandular tissue located behind the nose, near the entrance of nasal passageways. They work as part of the body’s defense system, fighting infections, filtering out germs and creating antibodies. Sometimes they can become infected by bacteria or viruses, causing them to become swollen and sore. When this happens, they cause nasal obstruction. Your baby can have difficulty breathing and sleeping. It is important to seek the advice of your pediatrician in the case of enlarged adenoids.

5. Foreign Objects

Babies are curious beings and can put small objects in places they don’t belong like in their ear, nose or throat. Common items include coins, marbles, pebbles, popcorn, toy pieces or even small batteries. Small children may eventually tell their parents, but babies can only communicate through their discomfort. A baby blocked nose by a foreign object will cause your infant to cry and experience difficulty in breathing. If you do not suspect illness, look closely for an object that shouldn’t be there. You may even have to take your baby to doctor for an x-ray.

6. Nasal Spray Overuse

Decongestant nasal sprays are not recommended for children under the age of six. These sprays can become addictive and can cause nasal congestion to get worse with overuse. The delicate and sensitive tissue of your baby’s nose can get damaged as nasal membranes swell and get inflamed by the medication.

What to Do With Baby Blocked Nose?

A runny nose is a natural way to rid your baby’s body of germs and infections. However, sometimes your baby’s defenses create too much mucus, causing a blocked nose and congestion. Often, simple home remedies can go a long way in easing your baby’s discomfort.

1. Nasal Saline Drops

There are several nasal saline drops on the market designed especially for young infants. By putting a few drops into each of your baby’s nostrils, you can easily use a bulb syringe to remove excess nasal mucus. It is a perfectly safe method to ease a baby blocked nose. To use correctly, squeeze the syringe first and while keeping it squeezed gently place the tip in each of your baby’s nostrils. As you slowly release the bulb, it will draw out the mucus. Make sure to squirt the mucus out of the bulb and wash it with warm, soapy water after each use.

2. Gently Pat Back

By gently patting your baby’s back, you can help your infant loosen chest mucus so that he can cough it up. Lay your child face down across your knees. Gently tap his back with a cupped hand. If your baby is uncomfortable in that position, try sitting him on your lap. Lean him slightly forward and gently pat his back. Either way should greatly assist him in getting rid of his congestion.

3. Use a Vaporizer

A cool mist vaporizer can add moisture to the air, relieving a baby’s blocked nose. You can achieve the same result running a hot shower and sitting in a steamy bathroom with your infant. Make sure the vaporizer or the shower is cleaned regularly so that mold does not develop.

4. Use a Nasal Aspirator (Bulb Syringe)

Nasal aspirators are available in different sizes so make sure you buy one small enough for your baby’s tiny nasal passages. As mentioned in the previous saline drop section, they are simple to use. Just remember to squeeze the bulb first, and then while still squeezing, gently insert the tip into your baby’s nostril. When you release the bulb, the pressure will pull the mucus out of her nose. Use it in the other nostril as well, if needed. Always remember to clean after each use to prevent reinfection.

5. Elevate the Crib Mattress

As with adults, babies breathe easier with a blocked nose if their head is slightly elevated. Because of the SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) risk, you can’t and should never put a pillow under your baby’s head. Instead, purchase a specially designed wedge, available at stores, to place underneath your crib mattress to raise it ever so slightly. A rolled towel underneath the head of the mattress will have the same effect.

For clearer instructions on how to relieve baby blocked nose, watch the video below: 

When to See a Doctor for Baby Blocked Nose

Since a baby’s blocked nose can be caused by many things, it is important to know when to see a doctor for care. General guidelines recommend you call your doctor:

  • If the symptoms last longer than two weeks.
  • If your baby is younger than three months and is congested, call right away.
  • If the blocked nose is accompanied by a fever with a cough, a severe cough or cough that sounds like a bark, ear pain or fast breathing, there is no need to wait and you should call your pedestrian as soon as you can.

Anytime symptoms are severe, call 911. These incidences include anytime:

  • Your infant has difficulty breathing or is unable to breath
  • Your infant starts chocking or coughing after eating
  • Your infant is unable to eat or talk
  • Your infant has a cough with any skin color change such as turning blue or seems out of breath

If in doubt, do not hesitate to call emergency services. Only you know your child best and what may be odd behavior for your baby.