Congestion: Seasonal Allergies or Just a Cold?

Now that we have entered into colder weather, you may think that now is the time for you and your little one to get a break from allergies.  But indoor allergies are just getting started.

Have you ever wondered if the congestion your baby has during this time is seasonal allergies or just a cold?

Spot the difference in the mucus
First of all, a cold in an infant manifests itself with stringy strands of mucus that tend to be thicker.  It can vary in color from clear to green.   Also, a cold tends to run its course over two weeks and rarely lasts longer than that unless the infant picks up a new cold while they are recovering from the first cold.  Colds may or may not bring fevers with them.

Allergies can be more watery but can also be stringy in consistency, and it is always clear in color.   Allergies seem to linger longer than two weeks and may go on for four to six weeks straight or more. They tend to be more stuffy than runny throughout the day and night.  Allergies typically do not mount a fever response.

Do babies even get allergies?
Studies have pointed out that it typically takes an infant two exposures to a season before they mount an immune response.  However, it is also well-known that babies can still mount a response with allergy congestion to chronic exposures, especially to indoor allergens such as dust mites and pet dander.

How can I help my stuffy baby?
It is understandable that when your baby is uncomfortable from nasal congestion (no matter from allergies or cold), you as a parent or caretaker would like to spring into action to help them feel better.  Both colds and allergies can cause crankiness, loss of appetite, parental exhaustion, and possibly secondary infections in baby.

You may ask yourself, what can I do to help my baby’s congestion when it happens?  The first step is to purchase an over-the-counter saline nose spray for infants and apply one to two drops or one spray into one nostril and leave the saline in for ½ a second to a minute, wiggle very gently the tip of the nose, so the drops go in to loosen the mucus. Then use Dr. Rose’s Healthy Nose’s nasal aspirator and suction the nostril.  Repeat the process with the other nostril.   Typically, with cold congestion, it would also be advised to have a cool-mist humidifier running in the infant’s room while he or she is sleeping to the point to where the congestion improves.

Please don’t forget to clean the humidifier daily by following the user instructions in addition to cleaning your Dr. Rose’s Healthy Noses aspirator after each use.  It is recommended to sterilize your nasal aspirator at least every 24 hours while in use.  You can simply put it in the dishwasher.

And remember: do not give any child under two years of age allergy or decongestant medication unless instructed by your baby’s doctor.

When should I take my baby to the doctor?
Here are some tips that can guide you in your decision:

  1. Nasal congestion lasting more than two weeks, especially if interfering with feeds and sleeping.
  2. Nasal congestion that was originally clear and is now becoming thicker and discolored, especially if it has been more than two or three weeks.
  3. Nasal congestion and increasing or persistent fevers over three days.
  4. Any fevers over 104, or if under three months old, any fever over 100.3.
  5. Nasal congestion in addition to new symptoms occurring over time, such as a deep cough or any possible signs of ear discomfort.
  6. When your infant just does not look well, and your gut instinct is telling you to bring them in.

Although nasal congestion in babies is common, it is usually not serious.  Keeping your baby comfortable as they work through their cold or allergy symptoms is an essential part of the healing process—for both baby and parent.

Disclaimer: This blog provides general information and discussions about health and medical issues and is provided as an entertainment and informational resource only. It is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. This blog is opinion based and these opinions do not reflect the ideas, ideologies, or points of view of any potentially affiliated organization. The information on this blog may be revised and/or otherwise managed.