Chest Congestion in Babies – Causes, Signs & Home Remedies

An unwell baby with red eyes

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If your baby has a runny nose, it’s a good thing, because it’s a sign that his body is getting rid of the germs. But when the mucus accumulates in his nose, he may have nasal congestion, which may seem as congestion in the chest. Congestion is very common in babies and it isn’t life-threatening. But it can be extremely uncomfortable for your baby as it may make it very difficult for him to breathe. In this article, we provide you with an overview of congestion in babies; its causes, symptoms and home remedies.

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. Failure to expel the accumulated mucus leads to chest congestion. Thus, in simple terms chest congestion is accumulation of mucus in the nose and airways.

Causes of Infant Chest Congestion

Some of the potential causes of chest congestion in infants include –

1. Common Cold

The common cold is one of the major factors responsible for mucus formation. Since infants don’t know how to cough it out, it leads to congestion.

2. Low Immunity

The immune system of babies is in developing stage hence they are more susceptible to cold and cough. And when a baby has a cold and cough, he is likely to have chest congestion.

3. Irritants

Irritants

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

4. Asthma

If a baby suffers from asthma, he will be susceptible to chest congestion.

5. Premature Birth

Premature babies have a very weak immune system. This makes them prone to chest congestion.

Signs and Symptoms of Chest Congestion in Babies

Look out for the following signs and symptoms of chest congestion in babies.

1. Difficulty in Breathing

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

2. Coughing

If your baby coughs often, it could be because of the fact that he has a lot of mucus in his chest. It is another symptom of chest congestion.

3. Mood Swings

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

4. Insomnia

Sleeping with a blocked or stuffy nose is a challenge for infants. If your baby hasn’t been sleeping well, it may be chest congestion.

5. 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.

6. Fever

Fever, though not a symptom of chest congestion, it can be a part of a spectrum of the common cold. But if the chest congestion worsens and develops into pneumonia, then fever is a part of the symptom.

Warning Signs

While chest congestion and a cold always happen together, a visit to the paediatrician isn’t a necessity always. However, if you spot these warning symptoms, you must take your baby to a doctor immediately.

1. Trouble Breathing

This results from severe chest congestion or a blocked air pipe. If his lips turn blue, he grunts, moans, and his nostrils flare, your baby requires medical attention.

2. Fatigue

If your baby appears fatigued and his urine output is less, you should take him to a doctor immediately.

Chest Congestion in Babies

Home Remedies for Chest Congestion in Infants

Home remedies are very effective for chest congestion. Here are some remedial measures that can be tried at home to ease your baby’s chest congestion.

1. Try steam!

An effective method that will provide your baby with immediate relief is steaming. Steaming will help loosen the mucus inside the chest. Furthermore, it will moisturise the nasal cavity and prevent the drying up of mucus which can block the airway. A vapouriser or humidifier adds moisture to the air. Alternatively, you can take your baby into a bathroom filled with steam.

2. Use 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. Breastfeed your baby.

If your infant is below six months of age, just breastfeed him. Breast milk works better than over-the-counter pills. It will hydrate your infant, take care of his nutritional needs, and help him fight infections.

4. Raise his head.

Keep your baby’s head elevated will help drain the mucus away through the nose and clear his chest.

5. Massage using mustard oil.

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

6. Pat his back.

Lay your baby on your lap in such a way on his tummy. Cup the neck in one hand. Now, use your free hand to gently pat his back and loosen the mucus stuck in the chest area.

7. Give turmeric.

Turmeric contains curcumin which helps the body remove the mucus that is lodged inside. It can be mixed with warm water and given to the baby. However, avoid giving too much turmeric as it can induce nausea.

8. How about some 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 required nutrients and needs lesser energy to digest.

9. Try lemon and honey.

Lemon and honey can help loosen the phlegm. Lemon is also rich in Vitamin C which helps to boost the immune system. However, this should not be given to a baby who is below one year of age.

10. Onion juice helps too!

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. It can be given to babies who are above one year of age. However, your infant may not like its taste. You can mix it with honey and warm water before giving it to your baby.

11. Try giving radish juice!

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

12. Eucalyptus oil works too!

Eucalyptus oil has a pleasant fragrance and works wonders if your baby has a 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.

13. Bathe your baby with warm water.

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

Preventive Measures

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

1. Maintain Proper Hygiene

Maintain proper hygiene in your home. This will prevent your baby from falling sick and keep him healthy and fit!

2. Use Tissues

Use tissues to wipe your infant’s nose and mouth as they are disposable and help maintain hygiene.

3. Cover Your Mouth

Germs spread while coughing. If somebody in the house has contracted the flu, tell them to cover their mouth while they cough.

4. Use a Hand Sanitiser

If your baby has started eating with his hand, make sure you make him use hand sanitiser before his mealtime. Since his immune system will be weak, exposure to new germs may make things worse. You can also ask your family members to use a hand sanitiser before and after touching the baby.

5. Ensure That Your Baby Has a Healthy Diet

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

6. Keep Your Baby Hydrated

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

7. Make Sure Your Baby Gets Enough Sleep

If your baby is sick, chances are he won’t get good sleep. You should try to make him sleep. Keep your baby’s room temperature warm so that your baby can sleep peacefully.

8. Avoid Crowded Places

Avoid taking your infant to crowded areas to prevent him from getting exposed to people who may have a cold.

Chest congestion is common in babies and can be very unpleasant. But home remedies can cure your baby. However, if the home remedies don’t prove effective, take your baby to a paediatrician without further delay.

Also Read:

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