Nasal congestion is a common condition that can affect children of all ages. It can be either acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) and can have various causes, such as congenital abnormalities, infections, structural deformities, accidents, or tumors.
Congenital Nasal Obstructions
In newborn babies, the most common cause of nasal congestion is congenital anomalies. Narrow nasal passages, narrow nasal entrances, and rare conditions like nasal tumors can contribute to this condition.
One of the most prevalent congenital obstructions is choanal atresia, where the opening at the back of the nose is blocked by bone or tissue. Bilateral choanal atresia can be life-threatening in newborns. If your baby experiences difficulty breathing through the nose, constant unilateral or bilateral nasal discharge, or obstruction during breastfeeding, it is important to consult an ENT specialist.
Dry Air and Nasal Congestion
Dry air, especially in regions with a continental climate, can lead to nasal congestion and upper respiratory discomfort, particularly during the winter months. Overheated and poorly ventilated rooms, like bedrooms that become excessively dry, can cause nasal passages to become congested, affecting the breathing of babies and children. To ensure proper nasal function, the humidity level in the bedroom should be maintained between 40% and 60%. You can use a hygrometer to measure the humidity level next to your child’s bed, and if it falls below 40%, consider using a humidifier.
Colds and Upper Respiratory Infections
Upper respiratory infections, commonly known as colds, are the most frequent cause of nasal congestion in children. These infections are highly prevalent during the spring and winter seasons. In places like daycare centers, kindergartens, and schools, where children are in close contact, the spread of these infections is common. Children attending these facilities may experience recurrent episodes of illness, with an average of 8-10 instances during a single season. It is important to note that over 90% of these infections are viral in nature and do not require specific treatment. They usually resolve on their own without the need for medication.
Should Antibiotics Be Used for Nasal Congestion and Cough Due to Upper Respiratory Infections?
No, antibiotics should not be used for upper respiratory infections mentioned earlier. Administering antibiotics in such cases not only proves ineffective but can also lead to more serious complications and prolonged illness. Antibiotics are only necessary when a viral upper respiratory infection is accompanied by a bacterial infection, such as middle ear infection, pneumonia, or sinusitis. These cases are rare and are characterized by severe symptoms such as high fever, pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhea, and vomiting. If your child exhibits such symptoms, it is important to consult a doctor.
Treatment Options for Upper Respiratory Infections and Nasal Congestion
As mentioned before, viral upper respiratory infections do not require specific treatment, as they usually resolve on their own. However, in the case of children attending school or other risk-prone environments, where these infections frequently recur and may be complicated by bacterial infections, certain symptomatic relief measures can be taken. These include administering acetaminophen or other pain relievers in the presence of fever and pain, and using nasal decongestant sprays three times a day for up to five days. Additionally, it is important to ensure proper hydration, a healthy diet, and adequate rest for the child to support their immune system during the recovery process.
Nasal congestion is a common issue among babies and young children. Understanding the causes and appropriate treatment options is essential for parents and caregivers. Remember, most cases of nasal congestion in children are caused by viral upper respiratory infections and do not require antibiotics. However, if you are concerned about your child’s symptoms or if they have severe or persistent symptoms, it is always best to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and guidance.