Colds and flu

Updated 10 April 2015

Tips to help babies with stuffy noses

Humidity and moisture can help prevent and treat babies congestion and runny nose- an expert says.

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Stuffy noses are common among babies, but many parents aren't sure how to help, an expert says.

Babies can't blow their own nose

"Babies can't blow their nose, so caregivers can feel helpless in offering relief," said Dr. Andrew Hotaling, a paediatric otolaryngologist at Loyola University Medical Centre in Maywood, Ill.

"Breathing is essential to baby's health and stuffy noses can indicate something more serious," he said in a university news release.

Read: Summer flu?

One way to treat a stuffy nose is to place a cool air humidifier in the baby's room.

"Humidifiers add moisture to the air to make breathing easier. Make sure you properly clean the humidifier regularly so you are not blowing mould or mildew into the air, which can further cause illness. You may need to open the door so the room does not get too steamy," Hotaling said.

Another suggestion is to use a saline solution in a bulb syringe.

Saline solution to clear congestion

"Most babies are sent home from the hospital with a care package that includes a bulb syringe used to clear matter from baby's nose. A few drops of saline solution will also often loosen and clear congestion," Hotaling said.

It's important to keep congested babies hydrated because having a stuffy nose causes them to lose moisture, according to Hotaling.

Read: Flu and children

"If baby has a fever, or if congestion lasts longer than two weeks, see your paediatrician or family doctor. Also, see the doctor if the baby refuses to eat or drink or experiences difficulty with swallowing," he advised.

"Chronic coughing, usually like a hacking sound or a barking seal, can mean something more serious and the child needs to be seen by a physician for proper care," Hotaling added.

Sign of adenoidal enlargement

If your baby or young child is a chronic snorer, it could be a sign of adenoidal enlargement and you should take the youngster to a doctor, he suggested.

Hotaling also pointed out that it's important to protect babies from exposure to smoke.

"Many parents who are smokers will say that they do not smoke around the baby, but smoke can be trapped in their clothes or permeate from other rooms, irritating baby's sensitive system," he said.

Read More:

Colds and flu can cause stroke in kids

Steer clear of cold medicine for babies

Kids who were preemies need their flu shots

Image: Baby girl has fever with runny nose from Shutterstock

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Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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