Introduction Congestion in a newborn
Congestion happens when there is extra fluid, known as mucus that accumulates in the nose and airways. This is the body’s own way of fighting foreign intruders, whether viruses or air pollutants. Congestion might cause a blocked nose, noisy breathing, or mild trouble feeding in a baby.
Mild congestion is very common and also not much of concern for babies. Sometimes, babies require extra help for clearing the congestion as their lungs are very immature and airways are also tiny. The care should be focused on clearing any mucus from the baby’s blocked nose while keeping them comfortable.
If your baby’s nose is stuffy or congested, they might appear to breathe faster than normal. But babies have a tendency to breathe fast already. On average, babies usually take 40 breaths per minute, while adults take 12 to 20 breaths per minute.
If your baby is taking above 60 breaths per minute, or if they seem to be struggling with their breath, then take them immediately to an emergency room.
The symptoms of baby’s chest congestion are:
The possible causes of the baby’s chest and nasal congestion are:
- transient tachypnea
- premature birth
- cystic fibrosis
- viruses, including colds
- dry air
- poor air quality
- deviated septum
A baby having nasal congestion might have the following symptoms:
- discoloured nasal mucus
- thick nasal mucus
- snoring or difficult breathing during sleep
- trouble in sucking
Treatment of the nasal and chest congestion in a new-born baby
If a baby’s congestion is extreme and severe then they might be suffering from some condition that requires antibiotics, extra oxygen, or any other specific medical treatments. Doctors have to suggest a chest radiograph for diagnosing the right cause.
Babies who suffer from congestion at night might wake up more frequently and can have more or increased coughing along with difficulty breathing. They also become very irritable, cranky and crying the whole night. Treat night congestion in the same manner you did in the daytime. It is very important for the parents to stay calm in order to keep and make your baby calm too.
Don’t prop your baby on a pillow or put the mattress on an inclination. By doing this, it can increase the risk of Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and suffocation. Hold your baby upright as they sleep and you have to stay awake and take turns of sleeping with your partner.
The risk factors of congestion are more among new-borns who are living in dry or high-altitude climates, and especially for those who were:
- born prematurely
- exposed to irritants, like cigarette smoke, dust, or perfume
- born by caesarean delivery
- born to mothers with a sexually transmitted infection
- born to mothers with diabetes
- diagnosed with Down syndrome
The congestion in babies is short-lived and makes their immune system stronger than before. But if you see that your baby is not getting better after few days then see the doctor immediately.
Get immediate help and care if your baby doesn’t have enough wet diapers as it is a sign of dehydration, malnutrition and undereating, or if they have vomiting or have a high fever, especially if the babies are under 3 months old.
Visit the nearest emergency room if your baby shows the following signs of severe troubled breathing as follows:
- grunting or moaning at the end of each breath
- panicked look
- flaring nostrils
- ribs pulling in after each breath
- breathing too fast or hard
- unable to feed
- bluish tint is seen on the skin especially around nails and lips
Baby’s congestion treatments at home
Feeding: If your baby is getting or taking enough food, then everyday there will be many wet diapers. Young new-borns should at least wet a diaper in every 6 hours. If they are not well or not feeding or sucking well, they can get dehydrated and then have to see a doctor immediately.
Care: There are no cures or treatments for common viruses or viral infection. If your baby is suffering from a mild viral infection, then you should have lot of patience and care for them with your tender love. Try to make and keep your baby comfortable at home and also stick to their routine by offering frequent feedings. Also, make sure that they sleep well.
Warm bath: Babies who can sit might enjoy having a warm bath. The playtime can distract them from their discomfort and the warm water too can help in clearing the nasal congestion.
Humidifier and steam: Keep and run a humidifier in your baby’s room when they sleep which will help to loosen their mucus. Cool mist is the safest as there are no hot parts on the machine. If you don’t have a humidifier at home then can run a hot shower and make them sit in the steamy bathroom for a few minutes several times a day.
Nasal saline drops: Consult your doctor for any nasal saline drops for children they want to recommend. Put one or two drops of saline in each nostril that can help to loosen the mucus. You can repeat it 2-3 times a day or as per the doctor’s advice. Apply drops with a nasal syringe for thick mucus and use it just before a feeding.
Massage: Slowly and gently rub or massage the bridge of the nose, cheekbones, eyebrows, hairline and bottom of the head. Also, the mother’s touch can be soothing to your baby as he or she is already irritated and fussy.
Home air quality: Avoid any kind of smoke or smoking near your baby or their room. Do not use scented candles. Keep pet dander down by vacuuming regularly. Follow the label instructions to verify if you have replaced your home air filter as repeatedly as required.
Don’t use medication or vapour rub: Most of the cold medications are unsafe or not effective for babies. And vapour rubs that often contains menthol, eucalyptus, or camphor are known to be dangerous for children who are younger than 2 years of age.
Always, remember that increased mucus production is the body’s own way of clearing or throwing out the virus. It is a self-limiting infection unless it is severely affecting your baby’s ability to breathe or eat.