Infants who are one year old or less are commonly troubled by nasal congestion. Infant immune systems are still adapting to the environment, thus they are susceptible to allergens and infections which produce nasal congestion. Being nose-breathers makes it more difficult for infants, who aren’t used to breathing through the mouth when the nose is blocked. Help clear nasal congestion in infants through the following safe methods.
- Find the cause of the nasal congestion. Nasal congestion is a sign that the infant is having an illness or an adverse reaction to a substance. The immune response of the infant’s body against irritants causes the nasal mucous membranes to swell and produce nasal discharges to wash away the irritants. To clear nasal congestion, determine what is causing the immune response. Consider the things that the infant has encountered or eaten. Observe the infant and his environment closely, and take note of the things that may have contributed to the nasal congestion.
- Know whether the irritant is in his diet or environment. There are plenty of allergens in the air and in objects, and some infants are more vulnerable to them than others. Examples of these allergens are pollen, spores, dander, smoke and dust, to name a few. When the infant is allergic to these, he may have watery eyes, sneeze constantly and have rashes. If the infant is allergic to a food, such as milk, dairy products, nuts and fish, he’ll also have diarrhea, vomiting and flatulence.
- Eliminate allergens and irritants. Once you have determined the cause of the nasal congestion, eliminate it from the infant’s diet or environment. Clean his surroundings and avoid taking him to places where the allergens are present. Remove food that causes allergic reactions from his diet, and inform the infant’s caretakers about the food that he’s not allowed to eat.
- Remove foreign bodies. Sometimes an object may get lodged within the child’s nasal passages. The signs that this is the case are bloody, smelly or discolored nasal discharges, difficulty breathing and pain. Don’t attempt to remove the object yourself if the object is deeply embedded. Take your infant to the doctor immediately.
- Treat infections. Nasal congestion may be caused by viruses and bacteria. Viral infections usually go away spontaneously and don’t require medication, while bacterial infections require antibiotics. Take the infant to the doctor so that he may prescribe safe medications to treat the infection. Follow the instructions in giving the medications closely, especially in the case of antibiotics which must be given regularly and on schedule to effectively eliminate bacteria.
- Use saline nasal drops. Nasal decongestants are usually not safe for very young children. Use saline nasal drops to thin out nasal secretions to make it easier to flow out. Saline nasal drops are bought in drugstores, and these are clean and safe for infants. Raise the infant’s head, and place one to two drops in each nostril.
- Humidify the air. Mucous membranes need a certain amount of moisture, thus when the air is dry, they produce nasal secretions. Keep the air moist and the mucous membranes clear by humidifying the air. Make sure that the humidifier you use is clean, or bacteria may contaminate the air that the infant breathes.
- Encourage the infant to drink more fluids. When an infant has nasal congestion, he may refuse to drink because he’s trying to breathe through his mouth. Make him drink fluid nonetheless, because it helps clear secretions and wash out infections. Warm fluids such as soup and warm milk helps loosen mucous and soothe inflamed mucous membranes.
- Remove the nasal secretions. Teach the infant to blow his nose; demonstrate how this is done so that the infant imitates you. Use a bulb syringe to suck out nasal secretions if the baby can’t blow his nose. Wipe a runny nose before the mucus hardens.
Cooperate with your doctor to help clear nasal congestion more effectively. Pay attention to the infant and observe whether he’s still well or if he’s already in distress. Go to the doctor immediately when he seems unwell and unable to cope.