Stuffy/Blocked Nose in Infants: Reasons, Symptoms & Home Remedies

Nasal Congestion in Babies – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Arti Sharma (Paediatrician)
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Nasal congestion can be a hindrance in a person’s everyday life. 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 express 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 swelling or inflammation of the tissues in the nose, which lead to the secretion of excess mucus. 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 Nasal Congestion in Babies

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

1. Common Cold

A baby can have a common cold due to multiple viruses; however, the most common virus is the rhinovirus. These viruses cause inflammation in the inner lining of your baby’s nose and produce thick mucus that blocks the airways leading to a congested nose.

2. Influenza

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

3. Sinus Infection

If pathogens invade the sinuses (air-filled sacs) that are present inside the nose at the top and the sides, it can lead to the formation of excess mucus, 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

During an infection, the tissues in the lymphatic system called tonsils and adenoids are the first to get affected due to the immune response. 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 position in the nasal passage can block the nasal cavity and cause 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 nasal congestion. You will need to look for signs like shortness of breath, coughing, and noisy breathing.

8. Nasal Disorders

Babies may also suffer from certain nasal disorders which cause 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 can lead to nasal congestion. A 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 can also lead to congestion.

9. Irritants

Any particles in the air that can irritate the tissues in the nasal cavity can also cause nasal congestion. This can cause secretion of excess mucus. 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 may 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 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 a 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 Nasal Congestion in Infants

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 the case of tonsils and adenoids or polyps, medicines are prescribed to alleviate the symptoms. 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 relief.

1. Saline Drops to Release Mucus

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 mucus 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 mucus. 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 mucus 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. Remember, if your baby is suffering from a runny nose, do not apply medication or vapour rubs on his body as it can be harmful to him. Here are some remedies that can help relieve your baby’s nasal congestion.

1. Applying Vaseline on Baby’s Upper Lip

Constant wiping 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. Keep His Head Elevated

Place a pillow under your baby’s head to keep it elevated. This may drain the mucus and help with the 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 mould 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 the congestion in his chest, loosen the mucus and make breathing much easier.

5. Keep the 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 can lead to other complications. Hence, keep your baby hydrated with water or breast milk. 

6. Put Your Baby in a Baby Sling

Placing your baby in a baby sling can help soothe him and the upright or angled position can help drain his mucus 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 by 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.
  • Do not smoke inside the house or near your baby.
  • Regularly vacuum clean the upholstery and rugs in your house, especially if you have pets.
  • Use an air purifier in your house and keep your baby’s clothing, toys, and other things clean in order to avoid contact with germs and pathogens.

When to Consult a Doctor

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

1. Blood Stained Mucus

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

2. Mucus 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 a severe viral infection or an allergic 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 mucus or breathe through their mouth. Hence, nasal congestion may interfere with their sleeping and feeding. A visit to a doctor is a must in such cases.

Nasal congestion can cause discomfort to your baby 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.

Resources & References: Healthline, Medical News Today

Also Read: Chest Congestion in Babies

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