I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but we are in the throes of cold and flu season and unfortunately there are a few more months of this. As every parent knows, colds (aka upper respiratory infections) are “age neutral”.
In other words, there is not an age group that is immune to getting a cold and for every age child (and adult for that matter), the symptoms are the same. Congested nostrils, scratchy sore throat, cough, and just plain old feeling “yucky”. When an infant gets a stuffy nose, whether it is from “normal” newborn congestion, or from a cold, they often have a difficult time eating as an infant is a nose breather. When they are nursing and their nose is “stopped up”, they cannot breath or even eat, so it is sometimes necessary to clear their nasal passage to allow them to “suck” on the bottle or breast.
Of course it is self evident that an infant cannot blow their nose, or rub or pick their nose so they must either be fortunate enough to sneeze those” boogers” out or have another means to clear the nose. This is typically accomplished by using that wonderful “bulb syringe”. In our area they are called “blue bulb syringes” and every baby leaves the hospital with one tucked into their discharge pack. As a new parent the blue bulb syringe looked daunting as the tip of the syringe appeared to be bigger than the baby’s nose. But, if you have ever watched a seasoned nurse suck out a newborn’s nose, they can somehow manage to get the entire tip inside a baby’s nose. For the rest of us the tip just seemed to get inside the nostril and despite my best efforts at suctioning nothing came out. Once a nurse showed me the right “technique” I got to be a pretty good “suctioner”. With the addition of a little nasal saline, which you can buy in pre made spray bottles, or which may be made at home with table salt and warm water, the suctioning gets a little easier as the nose drops helped to suction the mucous.
Now, I have become a firm believer that there is a place for suctioning a baby’s nose, but once a child is over about 6 months of age they KNOW what you are getting ready to do. I am convinced that a 6 month baby with a cold sees the “blue bulb syringe” approaching their face and their eyes become dilated in fear of being suctioned!! Then they begin to wail, and I know that when I cry I just make more mucous and the more I cry the more I make. So a baby with an already stuffy nose gets even more congested and “snotty” and the bulb syringe is only on an approach to their nose. It also takes at least two people to suction out a 6 – 12 month old baby’s nose as they can now purposely move away , and hit out to you to keep you away from their face and nose. It is like they are saying, “ I am not going to give in to the bulb syringe” without a fight! I swore I would not have a child with a “green runny nose” that was not suctioned.
As most parents know, don’t swear about anything, or you will be forever breaking unreasonable promises to yourself! I think bulb suctioning is best for young infant’s and once they start to cry and put up a fight I would use other methods to help clear those congested noses. Go back to the age old sitting in a bathroom which has been steamed up with hot water from a the shower. Or try a cool mist humidifier with some vapor rub in the mist (aroma therapy). Those noses will ultimately run and the Kleenex will come out for perpetual wiping. Unfortunately, it takes most children many years before they learn to blow their nose, but what an accomplishment that is!!! An important milestone for sure.
That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!