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Blocked nose in children

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Blocked nose in children

A blocked nose (snuffles) is common in babies under six months old. It is usually due to normal mucus that collects in the nose, which is difficult for the baby to clear. No treatment is required if the baby is otherwise well and feeding well.

Why baby snuffles occur?

Baby snuffles are usually due to the normal mucus that may collect in a baby's nose. Snuffles are not caused by colds or infections - although an infection can make things worse. A baby who just has snuffles will be otherwise well, but may snort when breathing. However, feeding can sometimes become difficult if the baby cannot breathe very well through his or her nose.

A lot can be done to relieve snuffles

General measures

Nothing needs to be done if the baby is happy and able to feed. However, the following may help if feeding becomes difficult:
  • Try placing a bowl of warm water in the room where the baby sleeps. This raises the humidity which may help to loosen thick mucus.
  • Try giving smaller but more frequent feeds.

Saline (salt water) nose drops

Saline drops may be useful if the above measures do not help. Saline drops thin out the mucus and so make it easier for the baby to clear the mucus from the nose. (Saline seems to work better than just plain water.) You can buy saline drops from a pharmacist who can also advise on how to use them. Only use the drops just before feeds, and only if the nose is blocked. If saline is used too often, the skin around the nose may become a little sore.

Advice from a health visitor or doctor

Most babies with snuffles come to no harm and feed well, but perhaps more slowly and with more difficulty than you would like. If you are concerned that feeding is a problem then sees your health visitor or doctor. For example, as a last resort, your doctor may prescribe a decongestant nasal drop to use for a few days if feeding is particularly difficult. However, do not give your baby decongestant nose drops unless advised to do so from a doctor, and only for the time prescribed. (Decongestant drops used for too long can cause problems.)

Nasal aspirators

It is not possible to give any advice on whether to use a nasal aspirator (little sucker) or not. Some parents buy one to suck mucus from the baby's nostrils before feeds. (They are advertised on some websites.) There are no research trials to show how effective they are, and there is some concern that they may do some harm if not used carefully. ​​​​
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