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Newborn and Infant Care

Excess Nasal Congestion

04/17/2000

Question:

My grandson was born @ 27 week gestional, weighing in at only 1lb 15oz. Thank the Lord, today he is 5 months old & doing exceptionally well. One concern I have is the excess amount of nasal congestion he appears to have. We have tried to use a nasal aspirator, but it doesn`t work to well. (Tried 3 different types!) I have been successful w/ q-tips. When I am successful, the mucus has a white tinge & is very long. It appears to be coming from the rear of the nasal passages. At times I can use the q-tips to cause him to sneeze & then he`ll have some clear mucus. This appears to bring him temporary relief. My concern is the thick whitish very long mucus which I believe is causing him difficulties. Pediatrician suggests the apsirator & saline drops a couple times a day. This does not seem to help the situation. Any other suggestions??

Answer:

Nasal secretions are generally produced in response to an irritant as a way to prevent the irritating substance from being propelled into the airway. Excessive secretions or thick secretions make this process more difficult and at times, the secretions themselves become the irritant. In addition the use of the nasal aspirator may also trigger an increased production of mucus.

The pediatrician`s suggestion of using saline drops is a good way to liquefy the secretions and make them easier to remove. I would urge you to continue this practice, but I would try to limit the use of the nasal bulb syringe or the cotton swab, since these may aggravate the nasal mucosa further and actually add to the problem.

In addition make sure the baby is taking sufficient fluids because decreased fluid intake will make all body secretions thicker.

If this problem continues or if the baby seems to have difficulty breathing because of the secretions, do not hesitate to discuss it further with your pediatrician.

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Response by:

Judy Wright Lott, RNC, NNP, DSN
Associate Professor of Nursing
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati