“Babies can’t blow their nose so caregivers can feel helpless in offering relief,” says Andrew Hotaling, MD, FACS, FAAP, pediatric otolaryngologist at Loyola University Medical Center. “Breathing is essential to baby’s health and stuffy noses can indicate something more serious.” Otolaryngologists are physicians and surgeons who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the ears, nose and throat (ENT).
Chronic congestion in babies is not uncommon. “Babies and young children typically get six to eight upper respiratory illnesses per year,” says Dr. Hotaling, a professor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “Those in day care or those with older siblings are especially vulnerable to illness due to constant exposure to other children.”
Tips from Dr. Hotaling for treating a stuffy nose include:
- Use a cool air humidifier in baby’s room. “Humidifiers add moisture to the air to make breathing easier. Make sure you properly clean the humidifier regularly so you are not blowing mold or mildew into the air, which can further cause illness. You may need to open the door so the room does not get too steamy.”
- In addition to a bulb syringe, try saline solution. “Most babies are sent home from the hospital with a care package that includes a bulb syringe used to clear matter from baby’s nose. A few drops of saline solution will also often loosen and clear congestion.”
- Check for blockage. “Toddlers can sometimes put foreign objects in their nose. Check if the liquid is coming out of just one nostril. The precipitation may be colored or foul-smelling.”
- Keep baby hydrated. “The baby is losing moisture from the congestion. Make sure you are giving lots of appropriate liquids.”
- Go to your doctor. “If baby has a fever, or if congestion lasts longer than two weeks, see your pediatrician or family doctor. Also see the doctor if the baby refuses to eat or drink or experiences difficulty with swallowing.”
- Is baby coughing? “Chronic coughing, usually like a hacking sound or a barking seal, can mean something more serious and the child needs to be seen by a physician for proper care.”
- Check for chronic snoring. “If babies or young children regularly snore loudly, it could be a sign of adenoidal enlargement. Again, take the baby or child to the doctor. An otolaryngologist may be recommended for further diagnosis and treatment.”
- Avoid exposing baby to smoke. “Many parents who are smokers will say that they do not smoke around the baby but smoke can be trapped in their clothes or permeate from other rooms irritating baby’s sensitive system.”
The good news is that certain illnesses can help build the immune system. “Studies have shown that babies and young children who are exposed to germs and certain viruses build up healthy immunities that protect them later in life,” says Dr. Hotaling. “But not knowing what is harmless versus harmful can worry parents.”
Loyola’s ENT physicians treat children and adults with disturbances in hearing, balance, smell and taste; allergies; head and neck injuries; cancer of the head and neck; voice and swallowing disorders, and sleep disorders. The department has a reputation for achieving excellent results in endoscopic sinus surgery. Other surgical treatments performed include nasal surgery, skull-base surgery and reconstructive surgery of the head and neck as well as implantation of hearing devices for the middle ear and cochlear implants.
A full spectrum of otolaryngology services is available at Loyola University Medical Center and the Loyola Outpatient Center in Maywood. Services also are offered at Loyola Center for Health locations at Burr Ridge, Homer Glen, Oakbrook Terrace, Wheaton and Woodridge.
Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola’s Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.