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Health Tips / Baby Nasal Congestion

Diagnosis and Symptoms

Nasal congestion can occur frequently in babies. Their nasal passages are still developing and as yet are very small and will easily become blocked. Once blocked, mucous cannot be drained and will build up in the nasal area. While the mucous may not be infected, it may become a media for bacterial or viral growth. As babies under 4 months breathe mainly through their nasal passages rather than their mouth, it is important that such a problem be treated quickly.

Congestion can occur as part of a cold and if accompanied by other symptoms of a cold, you may need to consult your doctor. Environmental factors are a common cause of nasal congestion. Changes in humidity, in particular a change to a very dry or very cold environment can worsen or cause the problem. Irritants such as pollution, dust, cigarette smoke or pollen can cause nasal congestion in adults and children.

If your child is uncomfortable or anxious, or has a temperature associated with the nasal congestion, your doctor should be consulted, particularly in the case of a young infant.

Preventative Measures 

Babies prone to nasal congestion should always be kept in a well-ventilated environment which is neither too "stuffy" nor too cold. Humidifiers, which provide a warm vapour to moisten the atmosphere, can be used to ensure that the baby s nasal passages are kept moist and free of congestion. If using a humidifier, make sure to place it used in a safe place away out of the reach of any children, as it will be full of vaporising water. A similar effect may be achieved by placing a small container of water on a radiator (not an electrical heater) in the infant s room.

If your baby is prone to congestion, it may be necessary to use sodium chloride 0.9% (also known as saline) nasal drops or solutions to liquefy the mucous. These should only be used on a short-term basis as over-use may dry out the nasal passages.

For many reasons including nasal congestion, never place your infant in a dusty or a smokey environment.

Non-Prescription Treatments 

By helping to liquefy mucous secretions one or two drops of Sodium chloride 0.9% nasal drops should help to relieve nasal congestion. Products such as BABYSAL and CALPOL NASAL SPRAY are ideal for treatment of mild nasal congestion in babies and children. 

Products containing aromatic oils such as KARVOL (a mixture of pine, cinnamon and menthol) or PICKLES SNUFFLE BABE (containing eucalyptus, thyme and menthol) are used to clear a blocked up nose. The oils vaporise, so that they are breathed and unblock the nasal passages. These products should only be used strictly in accordance with the instructions on the product and for both products direct skin contact should be avoided. The baby should not be able to touch the oils as they could transfer the oils into their eyes. After snipping the top of the KARVOL capsule, the contents are poured onto a handkerchief,   which is tied down securely in the vicinity, but out of the reach, of the child. SNUFFLE BABE is in a petroleum base and can be applied to the clothing or alternatively to a handkerchief placed out of reach.

In severe cases, a nasal aspirator may be used to remove the mucous from the nostrils of an infant. To use an aspirator, squeeze the bulb and place the plastic tip at the base of the nostril. Gently release the bulb to slowly collect the mucous. This device should be used under the direction of a professional.

Liquid preparations of a combined decongestant and antihistamine, such as ACTIFED SYRUP, may be used for a short term for children over 6 years. Remember, the antihistamine component can often cause drowsiness. You should check with your pharmacist or doctor that these medicines are appropriate for your child.

If the nasal congestion is causing your child difficulties, particularly with their breathing (especially a young infant) or if there is associated fever or malaise or the condition continues for a number of days, you should always have your child examined by your doctor.

Further Information on the medicines listed above including dosage is available at

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Last update: 16/05/2013 12:38 • Previous update: 30/11/-0001 00:00