Chest Congestion in Babies – Causes, Signs & Home Remedies

An unwell baby with red eyes

Whenever the weather starts changing, everyone becomes vulnerable to catching a cold. Every baby is bound to fall sick during this period and although upsetting, chest congestion isn’t life-threatening. Falling sick can be an ordeal for them and they need your love and support to get better.

What is Chest Congestion?

The inner lining of the respiratory system consists of membranes that produce a thick sticky fluid called mucus. When alien objects such as dust particles or smoke enter the body, this lining begins to secrete mucus. When you suffer from a cold, this system is again activated and the failure to remove all the mucus leads to chest congestion.

Causes of Infant Chest Congestion

Here are some common causes of chest congestion:

1. Common Cold

A common cold is one of the usual suspects due to the copious amounts of mucus formation that takes place. This can travel down to the chest, and since infants are not familiar with the concept of coughing out the phlegm, it leads congestion.

2. Low Immunity

We all enter this world with an inexperienced immune system. The immune system in infants is, therefore, weaker than that of an adult, thereby making them more susceptible to catching a cold and getting chest congestion.

3. Irritants

Irritants in the air such as cigarette smoke, air pollution and cooking smoke can all affect the respiratory system of an infant.

Baby suffering from a cold

Signs and Symptoms Chest of Congestion in Babies

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

1. Breathing difficulty

Your infant’s breathing pattern is likely to change if they have chest congestion. If you notice that their breath is not in sync, then it is probably a case of chest congestion.

2. Coughing

If your baby has a cold, then coughing isn’t far behind. Note the type of cough that your baby has. If a cough is not dry, it means that their bodies are trying to expel the mucus that has accumulated.

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

Given that your infant is going through a lot of discomfort, their mood is likely to get affected. If you notice a sudden cranky behaviour, it may be because of the discomfort they are experiencing.

5. Insomnia

Sleeping with a blocked or stuffy nose is an ordeal for infants and adults alike. This is likely to make it difficult for your infant to sleep and even make them cranky the next morning.

6. Poor Appetite

A stuffy nose messes up the olfactory senses and food doesn’t seem as appealing as before. Doctors say that digestion takes up a lot of energy and the body kills appetite to conserve energy for a proper immune response.

Warning Signs

While chest congestion and a cold go hand in hand, a visit to the doctor isn’t a necessity. In most cases, proper care with the help of home remedies is sufficient to eliminate chest congestion. However, there are some instances that may require you to take your child to a clinic.

1. Trouble in Breathing

This can be due to severe chest congestion and may block the air pipes. If the oxygen supply is too little, the lips become blue and require medical attention.

2. Dehydration

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

Treatment for Chest Congestion

A mother giving medicine to her baby

Chest congestion is mainly due to a cold which is caused by a virus. This means that taking antibiotics will not work and the best thing to do is to let the cold run its course. You can focus on various chest congestion remedies such as warm oil massages to alleviate the symptoms and help the mucus come out.

Home Remedies for Chest Congestion in Infants

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

1. Steaming

An effective method for some immediate relief, steaming helps to loosen the mucus that is inside the chest. Additionally, it provides some moisture to the nasal cavity and helps prevent the drying up of mucus which can block the air pathway.

2. Ajwain and Garlic

Heat some garlic and ajwain in a tawa until it is slightly warm and put it inside a piece of cloth. Apply this on your infant’s chest to provide relief against 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 is more than adequate to take care of their health needs. It works better than over the counter pills as it hydrates your infant, takes care of their nutritional needs and contains antibodies to fight infection.

4. Raised Head

This helps to drain the mucus down and away from the nose and the chest. Always elevate your baby’s head when they are sleeping and during a breastfeeding session.

5. Mustard 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 for relief. Use caution while applying the oil as it can burn the baby’s skin if it is too hot.

6. Back Tap

Place your baby on your lap in such a way that your baby’s back is facing you and cup the neck with one hand. Now, use your free hand to gently tap their back to help loosen the mucus that is stuck in the chest area.

7. Vicks

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

8. Turmeric

Turmeric contains curcumin which helps the body in removing 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 used in multiple ways such as chewed raw, sautéed, soaked in water or even inhaling its vapour when dry roasted.

10. Encourage Coughing

Seems simple enough but many parents aren’t aware that coughing is in fact very good to prevent baby chest congestion. This is because it helps expel the mucus that is stuck inside and avoids any further accumulation.

11. Chicken Noodle Soup

This remedy has been used since ancient times by the Jewish and Chinese communities to help in curing chest congestion. It clears up the mucus in the lungs, provides all the nutrients required 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 which can then be coughed out. Lemon is also rich in Vitamin C which helps to boost the immune system. However, do not feed your infant this concoction if they are lesser than one year of age. This is because honey may contain bacteria spores that might multiply in your infant’s stomach and can 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 some lukewarm water. Onions contain sulphur and quercetin which helps 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 provides infant chest congestion relief. Carefully give your baby a little bit of ginger to suck on; if they’re older than one year, you can mix the ginger with honey.

Preventive Measures

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

1. Hygiene

Keeping good hygiene can prevent any illnesses from making their way to your infant.

2. Tissues

Rather than using cloth handkerchiefs, use tissues as these are disposable and cannot be reused.

3. Covering their Mouth

Germs spread while coughing. Covering their mouth while they cough is a good way to avoid spreading the illness.

4. Proper disposal of tissues

Are the tissues that have been used thrown into the bin or are they carelessly strewn across the house? Exposure increases the risk of your toddler catching a cold and getting chest congestion.

5. Hand Sanitiser

Make sure you apply hand sanitisers regularly on your baby. Since their immune system is already weak, exposure to new germs may make things worse.

6. Diet

Include options such as turmeric, lemon and ginger which have anti-inflammatory properties and can keep chest congestion at bay.

7. Hydration

Keep your infant hydrated when they have a flu to make sure the mucus does not dry up and stick inside the body.

8. Proper Sleep

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

9. Avoid crowded places

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

Chest congestion is an unpleasant experience but there are many home remedies that can be used to cure your child. When these remedies are used consistently, the congestion will clear up on its own.

Also Read:

Nasal Congestion In Babies
Best Home Remedies for Blocked Nose in Infants
Home Remedies for Cold and Cough in Babies