Parents learn quickly that there are some dirty jobs when it comes to baby, and someone’s gotta do it.
A stuffy nose and mucus in your baby’s throat can make it hard to breathe. Your baby may be snorting, gurgling when inhaling/exhaling or wheezing. The automatic response to such a situation is to want to clear the mucus from your baby’s throat.
Dangers of Mucus in a Baby’s Airway
Mucus, also called phlegm, is naturally present in a baby’s nose and throat. However, a cold, influenza, allergies, and other illnesses can cause an excessive production in the baby’s airway. Mucus that remains stuck in the throat causes irritation and makes breathing difficult.
Your baby may start to cough in an effort to clear his airway. However, most infants who are younger than four months have a difficult time coughing very hard. A cough breaks up the mucus. In an effort to clear his airway your baby might start gulping and swallowing the loosened mucus which causes your infant to choke.
What is Throat Mucus?
Your baby’s throat and nose naturally produce about a liter of mucus per day. Mucus is an important part of your baby’s body functions. It helps prevent harmful viruses and bacteria from entering his body.
When your baby becomes sick, his airways become irritated and his body produces an excessive amount of mucus. The mucus lubricates the air passages and works to flush out the viruses.
How to Deal With Excessive Mucus
Here are several steps that you can take to clear the mucus from your baby’s throat:
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications are never recommended for infants or children under the age of four.
Suctioning With a Bulb Syringe
Excessive mucus in your baby’s airway may need to be suctioned with a bulb syringe.
- Saline Solution: First place a few drops of saline solution into your baby’s nostrils. Saline can effectively break up the mucus so it is easier to suck out with the bulb syringe. After placing a couple of drops of saline into each nostril, you should wait a few minutes.
- Bulb Syringe: Insert the tip of the bulb syringe into the baby’s nostril. Insert it no more than ¼ of an inch into the nose hole. Compress the bulb of the syringe to suck out the mucus. Repeat the process in each nostril.
- Sterilize: Sterilize the bulb syringe after each use.
Increase the humidity level in the home by using a humidifier or vaporizer. The humidifier or vaporizer increases the moisture in the room’s air so the mucus in your baby’s airway breaks up.
If you do not own a humidifier then you can achieve the same results by taking your baby into a hot, steamy bathroom. Boiling a large pot of water on the stovetop or wood stove also increases the humidity level in the home.
Many parents opt to add essential oils to the humidifier or baby’s bath water. Oils that are effective at breaking up mucus in the airway include eucalyptus, menthol, or pine oil.
Elevate Baby’s Head
Placing a pillow under the baby’s mattress to elevate the head region can help mucus drain out of your baby’s airway.
For centuries mothers have placed a few drops of breast milk into each nostril to loosen mucus.
When to Get Medical Help
If your child is experiencing any of the following symptoms then you should consult with your pediatrician.
- Difficulty breathing
- Breathing rapidly
- Has blue lips, face, or tongue
- A high fever
- Your infant is less than three months old and has a fever.
- Makes a whooping sound when breathing in after coughing
- Coughs up blood
- Makes a noisy, musical noise when inhaling.
- Wheezes when breathing
- Refuses to nurse or eat
- Physically weak
Understanding Mucus and a Cough
- Daytime Coughing: Cold air and activity during the day usually create a daytime cough that may seem worse.
- A Nighttime Cough: Coughing is worse at night because of the mucus from your infant’s mouth and nose draining down his throat. Asthma is also often worse at night.
- Cough With a Fever: If your baby has a cough and a fever of a 102 degrees Fahrenheit or greater it could be serious.Y our baby may have pneumonia and you should seek medical help.
- Cough With Vomiting: Many times a baby will cough so hard that he will spit up or vomit. The mucus in his throat can also trigger a vomiting response.
What the Experts Say
“A majority of coughs actually resolve with just rest and home remedies,” said Dr. Sharon Horesh Bergquist, an internist at the Emory Clinic in Atlanta. “So that’s the place to start unless there are warning signs of something more serious.”
If a cough produces blood-tinged phlegm, thick mucus, fever, wheezing, and shortness of breath then Dr. Sharon Horesh Bergquist states, “Those are all signs that the cause more likely to be a bacterial than viral infection, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, or perhaps an underlying medical condition, but without those signs, it’s usually okay to try home remedies for a few days.”
Dr. Michael Wong, deputy medical director of Raffles Medical, stated that healthy babies, toddlers, and preschoolers catch a bout of cold or flu six to eight times a year on average.
“A specific treatment is usually not necessary in most cases,” Dr. Wong says. “What your sick baby needs are plenty of rest. That means shelving activities that may over-stimulate her, as well as encouraging more naps and an earlier bedtime. Give her more fluids to help loosen phlegm and soothe the throat, as well as replace water lost from the body during a fever.”
No parent likes to see their child struggling to breathe. Clearing away the mucus from your baby’s throat and nose will help alleviate some of your little ones discomfort so he can nurse better and rest.