Nasal Congestion In Babies – How to Treat your Baby’s Stuffy or Blocked Nose

Many adults find that nasal congestion greatly limits them from going about their day. It makes breathing difficult and a runny nose can prove to be very frustrating. Likewise, babies also go through a lot of discomfort due to nasal congestion, which may give them many sleepless nights. Since they cannot speak what they are feeling, it is upon you to identify the symptoms of a blocked nose and provide remedies accordingly.

Video: How to Treat Nasal Congestion in Babies?

What is Nasal Congestion in Infants?

Nasal congestion in babies is usually caused due to the swelling or inflammation of the tissues in the nose, which lead to the secretion of excess mucous. Newborn babies may have a stuffy nose for the first few days due to the amniotic fluid in the womb. They try to clear this out by sneezing. Your baby’s stuffy nose can cause him trouble breathing, especially as babies and most toddlers cannot breathe through their mouth very well.

Causes of Baby Nasal Congestion

Nasal congestion in babies may be caused due to various reasons. Some of the common causes are

1. Common Cold

A common cold is caused in babies due to various viruses; however, the most common of them is the rhinovirus. These viruses cause inflammation in the inner lining of your baby’s nose and produce thick mucous that blocks the airways leading to a congested nose.

2. Influenza

With symptoms that are very similar to that of a common cold, influenza will be characterized by a runny nose rather than inflammation inside the nose. Your baby will also have a high fever in case of influenza. The influenza virus is known to affect the lungs, throat and the nose.

3. Sinus Infection

If pathogens invade the nose sinuses (air-filled sacs) that are present inside the nose at the top and the sides, they lead to the formation of excess mucous which is thick and dark. The germs will also irritate the lining of the nose and cause inflammation.

4. Allergies

Allergies like pollen allergy or rhinitis (hay fever) are also common causes of nasal congestion. The allergens found in pollen or other substances can irritate the passage in the nose which leads to inflammation and a runny nose. This may be accompanied by stomach pain or diarrhoea.

5. Tonsils And Adenoids

The tissues in the lymphatic system called tonsils and adenoids get affected first due to immune response during an infection. In such cases, the tonsils and the adenoids enlarge and exert pressure on the nasal passages making it difficult to breathe.

6. Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps are caused due to growth anomalies and present themselves in the form of extra growth. These are benign and are usually formed of mucous. However, their positioning in the nasal passage can block the nasal cavity and cause nasal congestion. They can also cause a constant runny nose.

7. Asthma

Asthma causes the airways to get constricted making breathing difficult. In case your baby has asthma caused by the inflammation of tissues in the respiratory canal, then the baby may have a nasal congestion. You will need to look for signs like shortness of breath, coughing, and noisy breathing, among others.

8. Nasal Disorders

Babies may also suffer from certain nasal disorders which cause nasal congestion. A condition called granulomatosis with polyangiitis causes the blood vessels in the lungs, nose, and the sinuses to get inflamed which can lead to a runny nose. Churg-Strauss syndrome is another condition that causes inflammation that leads to nasal congestion. Deviated septum, is a condition where the tissue that marks the line between the two nostrils is leaning more towards one side. This can make breathing hard and also lead to nasal congestion.

9. Irritants

Any particles in the air that can irritate the tissues in the nasal cavity can also cause inflammation and nasal congestion. This can cause secretion of excess mucous. If your baby is exposed to dry air, it can harden the mucous, thus making breathing difficult.

10. Foreign Body in the Nasal Cavity

It is quite common for babies to stick up little things that they are playing with inside their nose. Sometimes, when these get lodged in the nasal cavity, they can cause infection and nasal congestion.

Symptoms of Nasal Congestion in Infants

While your baby will not be able to tell you what he is feeling, you will be able to identify a few symptoms that can indicate that your baby has a nasal congestion. Some of the common symptoms include,

1. A Constant Runny Nose

If your baby seems to have a runny nose round the clock, there is a good chance that he has nasal congestion.

2. Noisy Breathing

You notice that your baby makes noise each time he breathes in and out. This may be more prominent when he is asleep.

3. Snoring

Nasal congestion can also cause your baby to snore as he sleeps.

4. Picking His Nose

If your baby is older and his finger dexterity has developed, you may notice that he is constantly picking his nose in an attempt to relieve congestion.

5. Sneezing

If your baby has a stuffy nose, the nerve endings present in the lining of the nose can get stimulated causing a sneeze reflex. While sneezing can clear out the nose in most cases, it can also further contribute to nasal congestion.

Treating Infant Nasal Congestion

A mother giving nasal drops to an infant

Depending on the cause, the appropriate nasal congestion medicine for infants is prescribed by the doctor. Nasal congestion caused due to viruses and infection can be treated with antibiotics and antiviral medications. In case of tonsils and adenoids or polyps, medicines are prescribed to alleviate the symptoms and any discomfort caused. If the medicines do not seem to clear the congestion, they may need to be surgically removed.

It is important to remember that when your baby has nasal congestion, the first thing you will need to do is to ensure that he can breathe properly. Here are a few methods that can offer immediate infant nasal congestion relief.

1. Saline Drops To Release Mucous

Dissolve ¼ teaspoon of salt in 240 ml of water to make saline drops. You can also buy it at the pharmacy. You will need to lay your baby on his back and pour two or three drops of the saline into his nose. After 30 to 60 seconds you can turn your baby and lay him on his stomach. This will cause the mucous to drain out along with the saline. Clean it with a tissue paper and gently squeeze your baby’s nose to clear out any remaining mucous.

This method is useful even when your baby has dry mucous as the saline water can soften it before draining it out. 

2. Nasal Suction Bulb

Nasal suction bulbs are also called as aspirators and effectively suck the mucous out of the baby’s nose. To use it, you will need to press it to release the air inside it and place it on the rim of your baby’s nostrils. Do not place it any deeper as it may cause damage to your baby’s nasal lining. Once in place, gently release the grip and let the mucous get sucked into the bulb.

You can clear the bulb and wash it with warm water before another use. Do not use your baby’s nasal suction bulb on anyone else.

Home Remedies

If you notice a mild case of nasal congestion in your baby, you can try a few home remedies to reduce the discomfort faced by your baby. Here are some baby stuffy nose remedies that can work well for most babies.

1. Applying Vaseline On Baby’s Upper Lip

Constant wiping of a runny nose may irritate your baby’s skin. To prevent this, you can apply a little Vaseline to your baby’s upper lip to protect it from constant friction. Be extra careful and use soft wipes or cloth to wipe your baby’s nose. 

2. Placing A Pillow Between The Crib Springs And The Mattress

This can help create a slight inclination for your baby and help the mucous to drain right down the throat and keep him clear of nasal congestion. 

3. Vaporise

Place a vaporiser or a humidifier in your baby’s room to prevent dry air. This can help clear your baby’s stuffy nose. Ensure to clean out the humidifier frequently to prevent any mold from growing on it. 

4. Love Pats

Cup your palm and gently pat your baby on his back as he lies across your knees. You can also hold him on your lap and lean him forward to about 30 degrees and pat his back. This can relieve congestion in the chest, loosens the mucous and makes breathing much easier. 

5. Keep Baby Well Hydrated

When your baby has congestion, chances are that he isn’t going to be eating very well. This can lead to dehydration which causes a whole lot of other complications. Hence, keep your baby hydrated with water or breast milk. 

6. Put Your Baby In A Baby Sling In An Upright Or Angled Position

Placing your baby in a baby sling can help soothe him and the upright or angled position can help drain his mucous easily. 

7.Baby Probiotics

Probiotics can help strengthen your baby’s immune system and help him fight infections and viruses. Consult with a doctor before you administer any probiotics to your baby.

8. Nasal Massage

Give your baby a gentle nasal massage to relieve congestion. Using your fingertips, gently apply pressure on the sinus points at the bridge of the nose and run your fingertips down on the sides of your baby’s nostrils. Gently follow the same path back up.


You can try to prevent nasal congestion in your baby using a few simple precautionary measures.

  • Place a humidifier in your baby’s room.
  • Keep the air around your baby clean. Do not expose him to any pollutants.
  • Do not use strong fragrances or deodorants around your baby to prevent triggering his nasal cavity.
  • Use an air purifier in your house and keep your baby’s clothing, toys and other things within reach of your baby clean in order to avoid contact with germs and pathogens.

When to Call the Doctor?

If your baby’s nasal congestion does not show signs of resolving itself or in the event that you notice the following scenarios, you will need to reach out to your baby’s doctor immediately.

1. Blood Stained Mucous

This can be a sign of bacterial infection and needs immediate medical intervention.

2. Mucous Is Yellow Or Green In Colour

Foreign bodies in the nasal cavity or sinus infections can cause stains on the mucous. A doctor can clear the foreign bodies or effectively treat the infections.

3. Nasal Congestion Along With High Fever, Rashes Or A Sore Throat

This can indicate severe viral infection or an allergy reaction. In both cases, your baby will need immediate medical intervention.

4. Baby Has A Runny Nose For Over A Fortnight

If your baby’s runny nose isn’t showing a sign of stopping, you will need to consult a doctor.

5. Baby Is Younger Than Two Months

Babies that young do not have the mechanism or the reflexes to expel mucous or breathe through their mouth. Hence, nasal congestion may interfere with their sleeping and feeding. A visit to a doctor is must in such cases.

Nasal congestion can cause your baby a lot of discomfort and may prevent him from feeding or sleeping properly. If you notice signs of nasal congestion in your baby, try a few home remedies to relieve his discomfort. If he has acute symptoms, always ensure that you seek proper medical guidance to help your baby.