Q: What Causes Stuffy Nose at Night in Babies?

Answer: Babies have such narrow nasal passages that they can easily become blocked at night.  Therefore any amount of nasal congestion in a newborn can result in significant trouble breathing. Nasal congestion can become so severe in young children that it could be fatal, requiring immediate medical attention. Consult a doctor because the breathing problem could be of some other reason also.

Common Causes of Stuffy Nose at Night in Babies

Up to 3-4 months, babies naturally get congestion due to their small, maturing nasal passages. Besides  normal congestion, these things can cause a stuffy nose at night in infants:

  • The common cold or any viral infection usually results in cough and nasal congestion.
  • Infant sinusitis can cause nasal congestion. Sinusitis can also result in swelling of the back of a baby’s throat or tonsils or nasal passageways.
  • Teething puts pressure on the oral nerves and sinus cavities, making a baby’s nose swell up at night
  • Dried-up mucous obstructs nasal passageways, making it difficult to breathe and sleep.
  • Pasteurized dairy products can lead to nasal congestion of a different variety – one that is related to a food allergic reaction that thickens the mucous membrane in the nasal passageway, making it difficult to breathe.
  • Dust can stimulate an allergic-type reaction that can cause nasal congestion in the same manner that food allergic reactions can.
  •  Ear or respiratory infection (babies don’t generally get sinus infections because their sinuses are not developed yet).
  • Enlarged nasal passages – The nasal passages can be blocked due to a swelling of the nasal membranes which is further caused by the swelling of the blood vessels.
  • Because babies noses are so small, they also have very small nasal passages.  Babies can have congestion in their noses without having a cold because their nasal passages are very thin when young.
  • Smoking – Children who live with cigarette smokers have more colds and their colds last longer than their peers who aren’t exposed to smoke.

Stuffy nose might be caused by a simple cold, allergies, a nasal irritation, or any number of other factors. Identification of the particular allergic trigger and/ or treatment with nasal steroids and histamines is frequently effective at shrinking the nasal tissues and easing an infant’s sleep.

Treatment for Nighttime Stuffy Nose in Babies

Children aren’t developmentally ready to blow their own noses until the age of four, so you’ll have to help younger children clear the mucus. Because babies breathe through their noses and not their mouths, breaking up nasal congestion makes it easier to breathe, allowing a baby to nurse or drink from a bottle more comfortably.

You can’t give her adult medications – all cold medicines are dangerous for children – but you can make her more comfortable by using saline nose drops and a nasal aspirator to help clear her nose out.

I have good luck with the saline and a battery operated nasal aspirator.  You can also use a bulb syringe or nasal aspirator (Compare Prices) to suck out the sticky culprit and clear your baby’s nose.

Using a nasal bulb syringe or a nasal aspirator like the NoseFrida, and a bottle of saline nose drops breaks up the mucus.  The mucus, loosened by the saline drops, will be drawn out by the suction of the aspirator.

Always use a few drops (not a spray) of the saline before using the nasal aspirator: this helps to loosen and thin the mucus, making it easier to draw out, and helps to prevent irritation. Saline spray and suction their nose every night before bed. Repeat as needed on each nostril.

Another fairly simple thing that you can do is make sure your not subjecting your baby to nasal irritants, things in the environment that can block their nose.

How to Make Saline Nasal Drops

making saline drops

Saline drops are a good way to clear out little blocked noses. Saline nasal drops help relieve congestion, especially in an infant’s small nasal passages. Use non-medicated nasal drops (made of saline – Use Fess or Narium if available where you are).

I personally tend to avoid nasal saline sprays simply because in some children they wind up being irritating and it’s never clear which child will benefit and which child will not.

Doctors recommend an unmedicated salt saline solution – you can make with natural organic sea salts and evian spring water at home – this clears the nasal passages – dampen a paper towel and let them breathe it in, you can’t really use too much salt.

If you don’t feel comfortable making saline drops yourself at home, Over-the-counter saline nasal drops can also be helpful at loosening the mucous-filled baby nose. There are saline drops you can purchase at the pharmacy which help clear the nose. You can also buy saline nose drops with special infant formula at a drugstore. Try Ayr saline nasal drops which are specially medicated for babies, you can find them anywhere near the pharmacy dept.

6 More Cures for Baby Stuffy Nose

1.) The humidifier should help. Try using one at night while your baby sleeps. A cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer in a child’s room can add moisture to the air, helping ease breathing through dry, congested nasal passages. Keep a humidifier on in her room at all times, and for extra potency use together with Little Noses. Make sure to take the time to clean the tank of your humidifier as recommended by the manufacturer, and empty water from the machine after each use. If you don’t own a humidifier, a damp face cloth or small dish of water on radiator will keep air from being too dry.

2.) Put your baby in the bathroom shower while the hot water runs, and sit in there with the baby letting them breathe in the steam. Only 15 minutes of being in a steam room can help to soften dried-up mucous in a baby’s nasal passageway. The steam from the shower will help loosen everything which should lead to a better nights sleep.

3.)  A chest rub with menthol liquid or peppermint extract might also help. Use vicks or similar generic form on their chest ( or baby grow if still very little) on their back and on their feet. The menthol in the liquid helps open up baby’s airways and will allow nasal passages to discharge.

4.) Cardamom seeds contain natural decongestant properties, used in ancient Chinese medicine.  Burn a few cardamom seeds on hot coals and help your child breath in the smoke to clear the nasal passages.

5.) If you tilt the head of the baby’s cot slightly it will help the nasal passages to drain more effectively. Gently tip the cot to a 30 degree angle, using books, blankets or pillows to create a lifted wedge.

6.) If a child doesn’t feel like eating their usual diet, try some soft foods or warm soup. In older babies and toddlers, hot and spicy soup can clear nasal passages by causing a runny nose. Feed your favorite hot soup flavor to your child twice or three times a day to clear out the phlegm and unblock the nasal passage.

Stuffy Nose Caused by Colds

The cold, for some strange reason, seems to cause narrowing of the nasal passages in many infants. While asking about my baby’s health history, I discovered that nasal congestion was worse whenever their little bodies experienced a cold.  Because babies spend most of there time on their backs, extra mucus production (like during a cold) is going to run back into their little sinuses and throats, making it hard to breathe.

Runny noses, coughing and general cold symptoms are believed to come from the baby having their hands in their mouth more often. Close proximity to other infected adults or children can also cause result in a cold. Babies who have some exposure to older children will experience six to 10 colds during their first year (especially during flu season); it may seem as if his nose is runny and stuffy all winter long.

Should I Wait for The Stuffy Nose to Heal Itself?

One of the saddest things for a new parent is watching their baby suffer through his first cold. But remember, babies have their way of recovering even faster than adults. In order to keep little noses clear, their body comes with a handy self-cleaning feature: babies produce lots watery clear mucus to keep things moving.

They also have an active light reflex causing them sneeze frequently to clear their little noses. This is their little bodies natural way of dealing with clearing their nose.

When to Take Baby to the Doctor

Nasal congestion in babies can lead to a number of health problems associated with breathing and sleeping difficulties. A young baby’s natural instinct is to breathe through their nose – even when it is blocked. Since babies usually breathe through their noses, having a stuffed up nose can be quite a problem.

Very young infants are “obligate nose breathers” meaning they prefer to breathe through their noses to free up their mouths for constant sucking and eating. Babies under six months old can’t breathe through their noses at all when they’re stuffed up, so a stuffy nose can cause trouble breathing and eating.

As for consequences, when a baby has a stuffy nose (especially at night), they breathe an average of 2-4 less times per minute. Those extra slow 2-4 breaths per minutes have a way of exacting their toll – resulting in fatigue, weakness, decreased appetite, fussiness or crankiness, and trouble sleeping in babies. Once again, because of the swollen nasal passageways sleep can also be very difficult. When the infant’s nighttime stuffy nose is considered chronic (lasting for more than two weeks) bring baby to the doctor, or treat the stuffy nose at home with the above tips.