Chest Congestion in Babies – Causes, Signs & Home Remedies

An unwell baby with red eyes

When the weather starts changing, babies become vulnerable to catching a cold. They may suffer from chest congestion, however, this isn’t life-threatening. Falling sick can be an ordeal for your little one and he needs your love and support to get better. First, let’s understand what chest congestion is.

What Is Chest Congestion?

The inner lining of the respiratory system consists of membranes that produce a thick and sticky fluid called mucus. When foreign objects such as dust particles or smoke enter the body, this lining begins to secrete mucus. This is exactly what happens when babies have a cold. Failure to remove the accumulated mucus leads to chest congestion.

Causes of Infant Chest Congestion

Here are some common causes of chest congestion:

1. Common Cold

Common cold is one of the usual suspects when a copious amount of mucus formation takes place. This mucus can travel down to the chest. Since infants are not familiar with the concept of coughing out phlegm, it leads congestion.

2. Low Immunity

The immune system in infants is weaker than that of adults, thereby making them more susceptible to catching a cold and getting chest congestion.

3. Irritants

Irritants such as cigarette smoke, vehicle fumes and cooking smoke can affect the respiratory system of an infant and cause chest congestion.

4. Asthma

If your baby suffers from asthma, he is susceptible to chest congestion.

5. Premature Birth

Premature babies have a very weak immune system. This can make them easily prone to catching infections like chest congestion.

Signs and Symptoms of Chest Congestion in Babies

Watch out for the following signs and symptoms which may be an indication of chest congestion:

1. Breathing Difficulties

Your infant’s breathing pattern is likely to change if he has chest congestion. If you notice him breathing heavyily and with diffculty, then it is probably a case of chest congestion.

2. Coughing

If your baby has cough, its likely that he has a lot of mucus in his chest. This can easily lead to chest congestion.

3. Fever

The body will try to fight off any infection by raising the temperature as it has been known to help the functioning of immune cells.

4. Moody

Discomfort can make babies cranky and irritable. If you notice a sudden change in your baby’s mood, check if it’s chest congestion.

5. Insomnia

Sleeping with a blocked or stuffy nose is an ordeal for infants and adults alike. If your infant has not been sleeping well, it may be a symptom of the approaching chest congestion.

6. Poor Appetite

A stuffy nose can affect the olfactory senses and make food less appealing to babies. So if your little one hasn’t been feeding well, he may be suffering from congestion in the chest.

Warning Signs

While chest congestion and cold always happen together, a visit to the doctor isn’t a necessity usually.Proper care with the help of home remedies is sufficient to eliminate mild chest congestion. However, the following warning symptoms may require you to take your child to a clinic.

1. Trouble in Breathing

This can be due to severe chest congestion and a blocked air pipe. If the oxygen supply is too little, his lips might become blue. AHe might grunt and moan and his nostrils may flare. This condition requires medical attention.

2. Dehydration

If your infant is severely dehydrated, the mucus will thicken and get lodged inside.

Treatment for Chest Congestion

You can focus on various chest congestion remedies such as warm oil massages to alleviate the symptoms in your infant and help the mucus flow out.

Home Remedies for Chest Congestion in Infants

Home remedies have been found to be very effective for providing relief from congestion. Here are a few:

1. Steaming

An effective method for immediate relief, steaming helps to loosen the mucus inside the chest. Additionally, it provides moisture to the nasal cavity and helps prevent the drying up of mucus which can block the air pathway. Use a vapouriser or humidifier in your baby’s room. This device adds moisture to the air and provides relief. Alternatively, you can take your baby into a bathroom filled with steam.

2. Ajwain and Garlic Potli

Heat some garlic and ajwain in a tawa until it is slightly warm and wrap it in a piece of cloth. Apply this on your infant’s chest to provide relief from chest congestion. Avoid making the mixture too hot as it could burn your baby’s skin.

3. Breastfeeding

If your infant is less than six months old, breastfeeding will take care of his health. Breast milk works better than over-the-counter pills as it hydrates your infant, takes care of his nutritional needs and contains antibodies to fight infections.

4. Raised Head

This helps to drain the mucus away through the nose and clear the chest. Always elevate your baby’s head when he is sleeping and during a breastfeeding session.

5. Mustard Oil Massage

This is a variant of the second remedy. You can use warm mustard oil with ajwain and garlic to massage your baby’s chest. Use caution while applying as hot oil can burn your baby’s skin.

6. Back Tap

Place your baby on your lap in such a way that his back faces you. Cup the neck in one hand. Now, use your free hand to gently tap his back and loosen the mucus stuck in the chest area.

7. Vicks

Apply Vicks vapourub on his feet and put his socks on as it helps with chest congestion. The best time to do this is at night. Avoid letting him walk after the application of Vicks.

8. Turmeric

Turmeric contains curcumin which helps the body remove the mucus that is lodged inside. It can be mixed with warm water and given with a pinch of pepper. Avoid giving too much turmeric as it can induce nausea.

9. Fennel Seeds

Fennel seeds are effective in relieving the symptoms of chest congestion and have no known side effects. It can be chewed raw, sautéed, soaked in water or even inhaled when dry roasted.

10. Encourage Coughing

Many parents aren’t aware that coughing is, in fact, very good to treat baby chest congestion. This is because it helps to expel the mucusand avoids any further accumulation.

11. Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken noodle soup has been used to cure chest congestion since ancient times. It clears up the mucus in the lungs, provides all the requried nutrients and needs lesser energy to digest.

12. Lemon and Honey

Lemon and honey are great to help loosen the phlegm that is inside the body. Lemon is also rich in Vitamin C which helps to boost the immune system. However, do not feed your infant this concoction if he is below one year of age. Honey may contain bacteria spores that might multiply in your infant’s stomach and destroy the digestive system. This condition is known as infant botulism and can prove fatal.

13. Onion Juice

Grate an onion and add the juice to lukewarm water. Onions contain sulphur and quercetin which help to reduce mucus formation. It also has anti-microbial properties which help in fighting off infections.

14. Radish

Radish juice contains compounds that ease chest congestion. It can either be consumed directly or its oil extract can be applied to the baby’s chest.

15. Ginger

Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and contains polyphenols which provide relief to your infant from chest congestion relief.You can give your baby a big piece of ginger to suck on; if he’s older than a year, you can mix the ginger with honey.

16. Saline Drops

Chest congestion leads to a blocked or stuff nose for some babies. If this is the case, buy saline drops, make saltwater or just use some breast milk. Put a few drops of this solution in each nostril and then remove the mucus using a bulb syringe. This method works best for 6-month old babies.

17. Eucalyptus Oil

This oil has a pleasant fragrance and works wonders if your baby has cold and cough. Put a few drops of eucalyptus oil on a handkerchief and place it where your baby sleeps so that he can inhale the scent.

18. Warm Bath

Give your baby a warm bath in addition to the above home remedies. It will help to disttact him and also clear nasal and chest congestion.

Preventive Measures

A few simple preventive measures that can reduce the chances of chest congestion are:

1. Hygiene

Good hygiene can prevent illnesses from affecting your infant.

2. Tissues

Use tissues to wipe your infant’s nose and mouth as they are disposable and help to maintain hygiene. Disposal is as much important as the usage. Ensure that used wipes are thrown into the bin and do not lie around the house. Exposure increases the risk of catching a cold and getting chest congestion.

3. Covering the Mouth

Germs spread while coughing. If somebody in the house has contracted a flu, tell them to cover their mouth while they cough is a good way to avoid spreading the illness to your baby.

4. Hand Sanitiser

If your baby has started eating with his hand, make sure you apply hand sanitiserbefore he picks up food. Since their immune system is already weak, exposure to new germs may make things worse. You can also ask the family members to use a hand sanitiser before and after touching the baby.

5. Diet

Include turmeric, lemon and ginger in your little one’s diet to keep chest congestion at bay.

6. Hydration

Keep your infant hydrated when he has a flu so that the mucus does not dry up. .

7. Proper Sleep

Make sure your child gets adequate rest. If adequate rest is not taken, mucus formation will increase, making the chest congestion worse.

9. Avoid Crowded Places

Avoid taking your infant to crowded areas to prevent him from getting exposed to people with cold.

Chest congestion is an unpleasant experience but there are many home remedies that can be used to cure your baby. When these remedies are used consistently, the congestion will clear up on its own. However, if the home remedies don’t prove effective, don’t waste time and take your baby to a paediatrician.