A: Nasal congestion is a common problem for little ones. In most cases, the child handles it well, leaving parents with all the worry. Occasionally, it can pose a challenge when it comes to breathing, sleeping and feeding.
If your child is happy and in no distress, just watch and wait. Sometimes less is more. However, if your little one seems to be struggling, gentle intervention may be required. Depending on the age of your child, she may be developing seasonal allergies, but there are numerous other causes for nasal congestion. Here’s the short list:
• newborn congestion
• newborn reflux
• irritants like smoke
• upper respiratory tract infection
• sinus infection
• foreign body in the nose • chronic rhinitis
Nasal congestion or stuffiness occurs when the nasal tissues and vessels become swollen and narrow or even block the nasal passageways. Nasal discharge may or may not be present. For newborns, this can really be a problem because they breathe through only their noses and have tiny nasal passages.
So, what is a parent to do? First, visit your family’s primary care provider, so your child can be examined and you can determine any cause for concern or necessary treatment. You can also try this dynamic duo: nasal saline and nasal suction bulb. Nasal saline drops can be very helpful to shrink the swollen nasal tissues causing stuffiness and to loosen and irrigate any mucus production. Follow up gently with the suction bulb. You can repeat this process every couple of hours as needed.
—Candice W. Jones, MD, FAAP, board-certified physician practicing as a general pediatrician at Princeton Pediatrics in Orlando, Florida