This time of year, we all get a case of the sniffles. If this is your first fall and winter season with your baby, you’ll probably soon experience her first never-ending runny nose. While we are all more prone to drippy noses in the cold weather, babies are more likely to get colds and congestion because their immune systems are still developing. Plus, they are constantly on the floor and putting things in their mouths, which contributes to more germs.
It may break your heart to watch your baby suffer from a stuffed up nose, but know that getting a cold is very common. Just think about how many colds you’ve had in the past few years. And if it gives you any comfort, exposure to small amounts of germs at a young age helps build immunity. Also, that amazing breast milk you’re providing is a life-long immune booster as well.
Unless prescribed by a pediatrician, medication is usually not necessary for a baby’s runny nose. Instead, help her relieve the congestion and the annoyance of a cold. Fortunately there are several things you can do during this cold-weather season to help ease baby’s runny nose.
First, try to keep your baby’s nose clean. Wipe away runny mucus as much as possible to prevent the spread of germs. You may be able to suck out some of the mess in your baby’s nose with a bulb syringe. It has a soft tip that is safe for a baby’s sensitive nasal cavity. If the mucus is not moist enough, use saline drops before suctioning out the nose. There are some brands of wipes that are designed to help pull out dried mucus, or you can use cotton swab or regular tissue if your baby will tolerate it.
A cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier can be very helpful to clear nasal airways. Use it during naps and at nighttime until your baby’s congestion clears. Just be sure to clean it regularly to avoid mold.
You can also try to loosen the mucus from your baby’s chest by patting her back gently. Much like burping, this may help your baby cough up some mucus that would otherwise get caught in her chest or sinuses.
If your baby is not feeling well, she may need some extra TLC. Breastfeed as much as possible during “sick days” to ensure your baby is getting plenty of nutrients and emotional comfort. Try clearing the nasal passages just before breastfeeding. You may need to take breaks often during a feeding to allow your baby to breathe if your baby’s nose is very clogged.
Typical signs of the common cold are congestion, cough, sore throat, sneezing, nasal discharge, headache, watery eyes and a mild fever. Usually a trip to the pediatrician is not necessary for a cold or seasonal congestion, but be vigilant of your baby’s temperature. If your baby is under 3 months and has a fever of 100.4 or more, call your doctor. Do the same if your baby is 3 to 5 months and has a fever of 102 or more, or if any amount of fever persists for more than three days. Always call and visit your pediatrician immediately with any fever 105 or greater at any age. Temperatures 106 and above can affect the brain.
If your baby shows other symptoms such as a bloody nose, a smelly discharge from the nose or seems to be in severe pain, there could be other causes for the stuffiness and you should call your pediatrician. Also, keep in mind that as the wind begins to blow, it picks up particles in the air that may cause allergies. That could be the culprit of your baby’s sniffles rather than a cold. Additionally, be aware of any new foods you introduce to your diet if you are breastfeeding as food allergies can cause nasal congestion as well. And as you may already know, a runny nose is a symptom of teething too.
Although a nuisance, a clear runny nose is usually not much of a health concern. Help your baby keep her nasal passages and other airways clear and she should be back to her bubbly, babbling self in no time. If anything, use her sniffles as an excuse for some extra cuddling!