Infant Colds and Congestion
|Penny Dupre, MD.
Board Certified in Pediatrics
Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics
About the author: Dr. Dupre is a board certified pediatrician with clinical experience treating children from newborns through age 18 years of age. She has provided care in both an outpatient clinic setting as well as urgent care. A native of Louisiana, she is currently practicing in Mobile, Alabama.
With cold and flu season nearing, it’s a parent’s worst nightmare to have a sick infant. The usual culprit is one of thousands of viruses. Antibiotics won’t treat viruses and they have to run their course. This is not easy to hear as your child is struggling to breathe through a congested nose. Have you been to the pharmacy lately and looked at the labels only to find there is nothing available for infants?
Did you know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend any cold and cough medicine to children under the age of 4 years old and only sparingly in 4-6 year olds? In this young, fragile period, these medicines have been found to have little benefit, while causing many unwanted side effects. This doesn’t leave many options for parents as far as relieving symptoms of runny nose, congestion, and cough. Using a cool mist humidifier can provide some relief of symptoms, but won’t do much to alleviate the nasal congestion. The only approved recommendation includes nasal saline and suction.
What the saline does is to help wash and moisten the nasal passages and to help loosen thick secretions. This helps to relieve the symptoms of both constant runny noses as well as congestion. Nasal saline sprays or drops for children are available over the counter in pharmacies without a prescription.
Nasal saline alone can be sufficient but in infants, a suction device is usually necessary to help evacuate the secretions from nasal passages. This can be accomplished with either a bulb suction or nasal-oral suction device, such as the NeilMed® Naspira® Nasal Oral Aspirator. Saline and suctioning is recommended prior to feedings to help the child breath while nursing or sucking from a bottle, as well as prior to putting them back to sleep.
Nasal saline and suctioning remains the only safe way for treating rhinorrhea and congestion in children younger than 4 years. If your infant is febrile, please speak with your doctor.