Those little button noses on babies seem so cute, but they do generate lots of questions and concerns for parents. When your baby is born, the main Â“noseÂ” question for your pediatrician is, Â“Are the two nostrils open?Â” Choanal atresia, which is a condition where one nasal passageway has not developed, is extremely rare. But itÂ’s important to make sure your baby doesnÂ’t have it because it can mean that your baby isnÂ’t getting as much oxygen as he needs. In fact, a main symptom is looking a little blue.Â
Another nose question that often comes up is, Â“Why is my baby sneezing so much?Â” The reason is that sneezing is the only way babies can clear their nasal passages. After all, they canÂ’t reach for a tissue and blow their nose like you would. Initially the baby may be sneezing out amniotic fluid, the fluid that surrounds the newborn while in utero. During a vaginal birth, most of this fluid is squeezed out during labor and delivery, but there still may be amniotic fluid in the babyÂ’s stomach, mouth, and nose. After a birth via caesarian section, there may be quite a bit of amniotic fluid in the babyÂ’s digestive and respiratory tract since there was no compression during birth.
The next nose concern is mucus in the nose Â— Why is it there and how to can you get it out?Â Mucus is a normal protective lubricant for all the respiratory passages including the nose. The mucus cells produce a certain amount of mucus all the time. With a cold and the resulting inflammation, these cells produce more. But consider the fact that even without a cold, you probably blow your nose periodically. Once again, since babies cannot blow their nose, the mucus tends to sit in the nose. Parents often worry that any mucus in the nose means the baby has a cold. It can be hard to differentiate a cold from normal nasal secretions, but with a cold, the baby may have a fever, be a little fussy, not eat as much, and may have a cough.
The color of the nasal secretions is not important generally. Bacteria that normally live in the nasal passages may cause green or yellow mucus, so discolored mucus does not necessarily mean that the baby has a bacterial infection such as sinusitis. Normal mucus may be white, yellow, or green. If one nostril has a persistent, foul-smelling colored discharge, there may be a foreign body in the nose, such as a bead or pea. Generally this isnÂ’t the case with infants, unless a devilish toddler sibling put something in the babyÂ’s nose.
Cool, moist air is thought to be the ideal environment for respiratory passages. If your home has dry air, a simple pan of water left out and changed daily can moisturize the air. Or you can use a humidifier. ItÂ’s no longer thought to be necessary to use a humidifier or cool mist vaporizer specifically to help with cold symptoms. Â He may also be more comfortable in an upright position if he has a cold.
A simple nasal aspirator or bulb syringe can be used to suck mucus out of a babyÂ’s nose. There is no need to do this more than once or twice each time you notice mucus. Some recommend using nasal saline drops first to loosen the mucus. In my experience, the baby cries when the drops are given, producing more mucus.
What have you found helpful with nasal mucus? Any other Â“noseÂ” stories?
Dr. Victoria McEvoy graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1975 and is currently an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at HMS. She is the Medical Director and Chief of Pediatrics at Mass General West Medical Group. She has practiced pediatrics for almost thirty years. She has been married to Earl for thirty six years and raised four children. She currently enjoys writing, traveling, reading, almost all sports, and spending time with her two grandsons.Eat, Play, and Be Healthy
Parents are often bombarded with new information on childrenÂ’s nutrition, and as a result, the most important dietary considerations often get lost in the mix. From Harvard Medical School, Eat, Play, and Be Healthy offers guidance on healthy eating through the various stages of childrenÂ’s lives, from infants to eight-year-olds. From breastfeeding to school lunches, get the tools to put your child on the path to a healthy adulthood.
This content is not intended to substitute for personalized medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your healthcare provider. Read our full disclaimer.