What to Do When a Newborn Has a Stuffy Nose

Q: My newborn baby boy has a chronic stuffy nose. He is turning 3 months old now, and has had a stuffy nose since the first month after he was born. My doc says she thinks it is just a newborn stuffy nose and she said it should go away by two months, but he is three months now. Should I be concerned about his stuffy nose? I use a nasal aspirator, but his stuffy nose has become chronic, and the mucus fills his nostrils again within hours of aspirating.

Answer: Many newborns will have a stuffy nose for the first several weeks of their life, so it’s nothing to worry about. A fever in a newborn (and up until 2-3 months of age), however, is qualified by hospitals as an emergency. You should call the doctor if your baby has other signs of serious illness besides a stuffy nose, such as irritability or a temperature over 100.5°F.

How to Cure a Newborn’s Stuffy Nose

A baby nasal aspirator is the solution to your newborn’s nasal nuisance. Hence, you should always have a good quality newborn nasal aspirator on hand. To Use the aspirator:

1.) Gently restrain your baby’s head. Many changing tables come with a head strap for this purpose.

2.) Squish the aspirator before inserting it in the nasal passage. This will prevent a gust of air from going your baby’s nose.

3.) With the aspirator still depressed, gently insert the suction tip as far as it will go.

4.) Release the air bulb. Repeat as many times as necessary to remove all the mucus.

5.) To clean, soak the aspirator bulb in a 3/4 tablespoon bleach to 4 cups water solution for several hours.

Battery powered aspirators: You would think a battery-powered newborn aspirator would be a strong device, but they actually are not much more powerful than handheld bulb syringes. However, battery powered aspirators, while not necessary, can give a more precise level of suctioning when taking steps to aspirate your baby’s nose.

If the technique of using a syringe or nasal aspirator on your baby makes you uncomfortable, you can instead apply a dab of moisture balm to baby’s nasal passages using a tissue. This will moisturize and soothe an infant’s stuffy nose. In addition to giving a sense of warmth, moisture balm will also loosen any dry mucus causing your newborn’s stuffy nose.

Other Symptoms Caused by Baby Stuffy Noses

You may notice sneezing along with stuffy nose symptoms in your baby. It is normal for your newborn to sneeze. Babies sneeze quite a bit during the newborn period, with all of the fluid from the in utero environment and all of the milk spit up that gets deposited in the back of the nose. A stuffy nose in newborns can be a sign of beginning influenza or the flu, however, especially when accompanied by chronic sneezing.

Wheezing: your newborn may also wheeze when breathing.  Most cases of newborn wheezing are simply due to “junky breathing” due to saliva and regurgitated milk, and are not a worry.

When Is a Stuffy Nose in Newborns Serious?

Newborn infants must breathe through the nose. They are preferential nose breathers, meaning they can’t breathe through their mouths, even when the nose is completely blocked. Usually, a stuffy nose isn’t a serious emergency in adults. However, stuffy nose can be serious for infants when they get a completely blocked nose that interferes with eating.

If your newborn seems to be constantly snacking and the falling asleep for a short nap you should make some effort to keep the baby awake for a longer feeding. If a newborn stuffy nose persists longer than a few days, it is probably a good idea to bring it up at your child’s next doctor checkup to be on the safe side.