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How to Prevent Nasal Congestion In Babies
Posted By Dr. Ben Kim
Updated on February 2, 2009
Nasal congestion in babies can lead to a number of health problems associated with breathing and sleeping difficulties.
A young mother once brought her eight-month old son to me with a request to provide an acupuncture or acupressure treatment that would help to alleviate his stuffy nose. While asking about her baby's health history, I discovered that his nasal congestion came about whenever his body experienced a cold. Dried-up mucous obstructed his nasal passageway, making it difficult for him to breathe and sleep.
I also learned that the baby's mother did her very best to keep her baby from crying for any reason. She was deeply committed to raising her baby according to principles of attachment parenting. Whenever her baby began to fuss due to discomfort that he felt from his stuffy nose, she would immediately hold him to her chest and soothe him before he could get too upset.
I explained to the mother that in her baby's case, it was possible that allowing him to cry for several minutes whenever he became too uncomfortable with his stuffy nose could actually solve his problem.
Whenever any of us cry, excess tears flow toward the inner corner of each of our eyes and enter two tubes called the lacrimal ducts. From our lacrimal ducts, our excess tears flow down a bigger tube called the nasolacrimal duct, which actually opens into our nasal passageway. This is why a "runny nose" can accompany a good crying session.
Allowing a baby to cry and produce tears when he or she is bothered by a nasal passageway that is plugged up by dried-up mucous can actually send tears into the nasal passageway to dissolve the mucous.
In the young mother's case, this advice led to considerable improvement in her baby's comfort level, as her baby's tears effectively softened and helped to eliminate dried-up bits of mucous from his nasal passageway. She also followed my suggestion to use a soft cloth to dab at her baby's nostrils every once in a while when he cried to help "wick" excess tears and mucous away from his nasal passageway.
Some other suggestions that I shared with her:
Before giving her baby a bath at night, sit with her baby in the bathroom with a hot shower running to create a steam room. About 15 minutes of being in a steam room can also help to soften dried-up mucous in a baby's nasal passageway.
While in the bath or by the sink, use her cupped hand to bring small amounts of warm water up against her baby's nostrils, giving him the opportunity to draw some of it up into his nasal passageway.
Use a warm mist humidifier while her baby sleeps.
Be sure to avoid pasteurized dairy products, which can lead to nasal congestion of a different variety - one that is related to a food allergic reaction that thickens the mucous membrane in the nasal passageway, making it difficult to breathe. This is applicable to the baby and his or her mom if the baby is still being breastfed.
Strive to keep her baby's sleep and play areas relatively free of dust. When breathed in regularly, dust can contribute to larger bits of dried-up mucous. Dust can also stimulate an allergic-type reaction that can cause nasal congestion in the same manner that food allergic reactions can.
I hope that this post ends up being helpful to some mothers and babies out there. If you know of any other helpful tips for addressing nasal congestion in babies, please consider sharing them in the comments section below.
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