Nasal Congestion

Nasal Congestion

What is Nasal Congestion?
Nasal congestion is the blockage of the nasal passages usually due to membranes lining the nose becoming swollen from inflamed blood vessels. It is also known as nasal blockage, nasal obstruction, blocked nose, runny nose, stuffy nose, or stuffed up nose.
Nasal congestion in an infant in the first few months of life can interfere with breastfeeding and cause life-threatening respiratory distress.
Nasal congestion in older children and adolescents is often just an annoyance but can cause other difficulties.

What are the causes of Nasal Congestion?
  • Common cold or influenza, bacterial infections
  • Hay fever, allergic reaction to pollen or grass
  • Reaction to medication
  • Sinusitis or sinus infection -the nasal discharge may be thick and discolored yellow, brown, or green
  • If the body is in a position where a lot of blood enters the head (e.g. upside down, head injury), the blood vessels in the nasal passage may inflame.
  • Small objects in the nostril (especially in children)
  • Nasal sprays: using drops containing vasoconstrictors for more than 3 days in a row may cause nasal discharge to come back
  • Many women suffer from nasal congestion during pregnancy due to the increased amount of blood flowing through

First line Defense: Myth or Fact?

Myth #1: I need a medicine if my child has nasal congestion
False. Most kids with nasal congestion will either have a cold (virus) or allergies.
A cold: is when your child has a viral infection in the nose. The body quickly fights this infection off with its own defense system. The most important part of this defense is sending more blood to the nose which causes swelling and congestion in the nose. This process is helpful and essential. Interfering with this protective process will just make it more difficult for your child to get well.

Myth #2: If the nasal drainage is a certain color then I need antibiotics?
False. Many people incorrectly believe that green or yellow nasal discharge means that your child has a bacterial sinus infection and needs an antibiotic. This simply is not true. Many people think that a green or yellow nasal discharge means a bacterial infection, which requires antibiotics.
This is NOT true. Colds will often begin with a clear nasal discharge, but after several days it usually turns creamy yellow or green. Colds are caused by viruses, and antibiotics will not help. A green or yellow nasal discharge is not a sign that you need antibiotics ;so; There is NO correlation between the color of discharge and the need for antibiotics.

Myth #3: Over the counter medication are safe
False. Most of these medications are not safe. In rare cases these medications have even been associated with stroke in children.
Pseudoephedrine and other nasal congestants have even been removed as OTC medications because they so closely resemble methamphetamines that people can easily convert them to the these dangerous and addictive drugs in their kitchen. Further the FDA recently removed the indication for children because not only are they dangerous, but there is no evidence that they are helpful. Never give these medication to your children.

Myth#4: Nasal congestion caused by allergies needs medication
False. Your child does not need a medication, your child needs the allergens removed. Start by removing cigarette smoke and animals from your home and all environments where your child is (like your car, grandma's house, etc.) If this does not help then read more in my section on allergies. Avoid anti-histamines if at all possible. These will make your child sleepy and only treat the symptoms - not the cause.

Fact #1: A cool mist humidifier is helpful.

True. A cool mist humidifier especially in dry climates is very helpful. This has absolutely no adverse effects and it helps keep the nose moist which allows the normal nasal drainage to do just that - drain.
Also; using a Saline drops is very helpful to suck the swollen of the nostril cells and so facilitate a natural drainage.

Fact #2: Nasal suction is helpful.
True. The congestion needs to come out. In older children this can be accomplished by simply having your child blow their nose. In smaller children it may require using a bulb suction device. This will be particularly helpful before feeding and before sleeping.

Fact #3: Nasal congestion is good
This should be obvious by now. Nasal congestion is what the body does to protect itself and heal itself in the setting of a cold. Interfering with this process will not only prevent the body from doing what it does best but may also be dangerous

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