What help can you give a baby with a blocked up nose?

We explain how to understand, help and treat a baby's blocked nose

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When your baby has a blocked up nose it’s not just upsetting for your baby, it can also be a distressing time for you, especially if you can hear your baby finding it more difficult to breathe. This can lead to lots of broken nights (on both sides), difficulty feeding and a generally unhappy baby.

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“The main problem a blocked up nose causes is that it makes it difficult for your baby to feed,” explains Dr Rob Hicks. “Try increasing the humidity of the air by putting a bowl of warm water in the room, for example in the bedroom while your baby is sleeping, which can help loosen thick mucus. You could also try sitting with your baby on your lap in a steamy bathroom, which can help shift mucus, too.”

If you find that these natural remedies don’t work, or you feel your baby needs an extra helping hand to shift the blockage, Rob suggests using saline nose drops before feeds, to help make feeding easier for your baby. Rob adds, “A natural seawater nasal spray can also be used regularly throughout the day to help loosen and clear the mucus.”

What mums have used to soothe blocked noses from our forum:

“I bought a nasal aspirator (a little sucker thing that you put in their nose and it sucks the snot out and clears the nose) and some nasal drops from Boots. The aspirator is great, really works. I also put some Karvol on a tissue and put it by his cot.” Hevma 

“I put Olbas Oil in a sink of steaming water while my daughter is in the bath. When I went for my daughter’s three month jab the nurse suggested running hot water or a shower to make the bathroom steam while my little one sits in a bouncy chair. But I find a trip to the swimming pool seems to clear her nose for the longest period of time. I think it’s down to the heat and humidity in the changing rooms.” DangermouseandPenfold 

“Saline drops and also a humidifier with eucalyptus drops. The humidifier adds steam to the room at night, which helps release pressure on the nose and chest.” Karla158

“A damp face cloth or small dish of water on the radiator will keep air from being too dry.” Schoonko07

Symptoms

  • You may notice your baby’s breathing changes – it sounds mucousy, or just noisier
  • You may also spot dried mucus around your baby’s nose
  • Your baby may be fussier, more unsettled and generally a bit grouchier
  • You may notice your child is also fussier when it comes to feeding, and keeps pulling away from your nipple or the bottle 
  • Look out for signs of a cold, which include a runny nose, higher temperature and coughing

When should I see a GP?

Colds and stuffy noses aren’t usually serious, but your baby’s immune system is more vulnerable to attack. While uncommon, your baby can be at risk of developing more serious complications, such as a bacterial chest infection.

Dr Rob says, “Most colds get better on their own without treatment”, but seek medical advice if:

  • Your child is finding it difficult to breathe, seek medical help immediately from your GP or hospital. 
  • Your baby is less than three months old and develops a fever higher than 38C.
  • Cold symptoms last for more than 10 days and mucus is noticeably brown, green or yellow, as this can be a sign of a bacterial infection. 
  • If your baby is rubbing his ears, as this could be a sign of an ear infection.
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Don’t be concerned if your doctor doesn’t prescribe antibiotics. As Rob explains, “Antibiotics are used to treat infections caused by bacteria. Colds, however, are caused by viruses, which don’t respond to antibiotics. Your doctor is likely to prescribe antibiotics only if your child has developed a bacterial infection secondary to (on top of) a cold.”

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