A baby runny nose is not necessarily a health concern unless it lingers for so long or seems to be worsening with time. Depending on the underlying cause, it may also be associated with symptoms such as sneezing, coughing.
Baby runny nose cough causes
My baby has a runny nose and is coughing a bit. This is a common concern among parents.
Coughing is the body’s way of getting rid of perceived health threats be it pathogens like bacteria and viruses, allergens, or irritants such as cigarette smoke from the airways.
A runny nose, on the other hand, occurs when mucous membranes in the lining of the nasal passages produce excess mucus in response to factors such as allergens, viral or bacterial attacks, dry air, and irritants.
Some of the common causes that are accompanied by a cough are:
1. Common cold
Respiratory tract viral infection, particularly common cold, is the most common cause of this problem and cough in babies.
Babies tend to get common cold more frequently because their immune system is still developing and has not yet developed resistance to the more than 200 virus species responsible for a common cold.
2. Nasal irritation
Any substances that irritate the nasal airways of a baby (irritants) can as well lead to an increase in mucus secretion as the body attempts to flush out these irritants.
3. Enlarged adenoids
According to Dr. Christopher Chang, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) based in Warrenton, Virginia.
Watch out for signs and symptoms of more serious medical conditions, especially influenza, which include diarrhea, very high fever (more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), lethargy, inability to feed, and vomiting.
Sneezing helps to expel potentially damaging substances and microorganisms from the nasal airways before they cause any (or further) harm.
The involuntary expulsion of air is triggered by the presence of infections (viruses and bacteria and rarely fungi), allergens, and irritants such as paint fumes, string scents etc.
Common colds and allergies are the two most common causes.
Allergies are triggered when babies get exposed to allergens such as pollen, animal dander, and dust mites among others. When babies with sensitized immune system get exposed to such substances, an antibody called immunoglobin E is produced.
This then leads to a series of reactions that culminate in the production of histamine. Histamine triggers higher production of mucus in the nasal cavities and may as well lead to inflammation of nasal tissues leading to congestion.
Common cold, on the other hand, is caused by infection by one or more of the more than 200 viruses known to cause it. Babies get an average of 10 to 12 colds every year owing to their less developed immune system.
To distinguish between these two main causes of a runny nose and sneezing in babies, you need to pay close attention to other accompanying symptoms.
To start with, common cold mucus is usually clear at the onset but often turns green or yellow in later stages (usually around day 10). Other symptoms of the common cold that you may observe in babies include mild fever (not more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit according to the Baby Center), nasal congestion, watery eyes, and swollen lymph nodes in the throat area.
Allergies are on the other hand associated with nasal congestion, red itchy eyes, and watery eye discharge in addition to a runny nose and sneezing.
Babies tend to get common cold very often and as Jennifer Shu says, common cold bouts can happen so back to back that it seems like your baby has this problem always. Other than common cold, allergies can also cause constant the condition. The same is true of environmental irritants such as cigarette smoke, perfumes, and chemical fumes.
With no fever
Mild fever is a common symptom of a common cold. As the Baby Centre website says, you can expect to record a fever of up to 100.4°F when your child is suffering from a cold. But what about a runny nose that is not accompanied by fever?
Well, that may be an indication of dry air in your house which makes the baby increase mucus secretion to moisten the nasal cavity and thus the air that enters the air passageways. Running a humidifier may help.
For newborn babies, runny nose (or nasal congestion) is a common phenomenon. It simply means that the gunk in her respiratory system is moving out. You should, however, seek medical attention if symptoms such as a cough appear.
Spicy foods may as well be to blame for this problem in babies that has no fever or any other symptom.
A 7-month-old baby
“My 7-month-old has a runny nose. What should I give to her and what symptoms would signal that it is time to schedule an appointment with my pediatrician?”
That is a question that someone by the name Angie asked the other day. At 7 months of age, a baby is still developing her immunity and resistance to common cold viruses.
A common cold is thus one of the most likely causes but allergies, dry air, and environmental irritants such as smoke and paint fumes could as well be the underlying cause.
Your best bet would be to rinse your baby’s nose with a saline solution as described later on in this article and increasing moisture in your bedroom. Identifying and eliminating any potential allergens may also help.
Can teething it?
The question, “Can teething cause a runny nose?” and “Does babies have this problem when teething? Are often asked by first-time moms.
The link between a teething and this problem makes for a debatable topic. Some parents and doctors have reported having their little ones, and patients, get a runny nose during the teething stage. Based on this, proponents of this argument hold the opinion that teething causes this problem slightly that is often accompanied by a cough.
The opponent of this argument, however, hold the opinion that other medical conditions the likes of the common cold are usually to blame for such nasal discharge.
This condition is on a good note, however, not a medical concern in most cases and clears away in just a matter of days or weeks. You should only get concerned if the symptoms seem severe, particularly runny nose, nasal congestion, or a cough. This may signal a more serious problem.
Rachel, Berger, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital, Pittsburgh also recommends seeking immediate medical attention if your baby’s temperature rise over 102°F.
For babies, less than 3 months old, the Baby Center website recommends seeking urgent medical attention if their temperature is above 100.4°F.
Lastly, extreme fussiness, refusal to eat and drink, diarrhea, and vomiting should as well get you concerned.
How to treat, relief, stop or clear it
This problem usually clears without treatment but several homecare relief measures can help to ease the symptoms. Here is how to stop this problem at home, so to speak:
1. Give your baby plenty of fluids
encourage your baby to breastfeed (or give baby formula) and take lots of fluids. This helps to keep the baby hydrated which in turn helps to promote draining of nasal secretions and soothing of the nasal cavities.
Electrolyte solutions such as Pedialyte may also help in hydration of babies who don’t seem to be drinking that well as Vincent Iannelli, M.D. suggests in an article published on About.com.
2. Avoid exposure to allergens and irritants
Try to eliminate any potential allergy triggers (allergens) and irritants from your home. Pet dander and dust mite are common allergens. Common irritants, on the other hand, include cigarette smoke, paints, chemical fumes, and dust.
Run a humidifier: Exposure to dry air irritates the nasal lining and makes the nasal cavity lining to increase its mucus secretions as a way to combat the dryness. Running a humidifier or cool mist vaporizer in your baby’s bedroom can help to moisten the air and reduce this effect while thinning out mucus to allow easy draining of the mucus.
3. Saline rinse followed by suction
Prepare a saline solution by mixing ¼ Tsp. table salt with 1cup of warm water and then place a few drops into your baby’s nostrils while tipping her head backward. Follow it up by sucking the mucus in her nostrils out with a nasal aspirator or bulb syringe.
Alternatively, you can get nasal saline drops from your local drugstore.
What medicines to use?
Over the counter medicine (a cough and cold medicines to be more precise) have fallen out of favor from most stakeholders in the medical field. In fact, most experts recommend staying away from them all together.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, says that an over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are not effective in children aged below 6 years and can, as a matter of fact, cause serious side effects. These medications don’t shorten the common cold course or protect them from secondary complications such as ear infection.
If the baby has a high fever, may, however, benefit from taking kids acetaminophen (kids Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Baby paracetamol is also a viable option if it is available in your country.
Aspirin is however not recommended for babies since it heightens their risk of developing Reye’s syndrome, a rare but often fatal medical condition that causes the liver and brain to swell.
Natural home remedies or what to do at home
In as far as what to do for a runny nose in babies, here are several home remedies that you may want to consider:
Honey and lemon: For coughs, the National Health Service website suggests using a home remedy that contains lemon juice and honey.
Tea: For babies who are at least six months, Baby Center website suggests using a weak chamomile tea solution to relieve their symptoms.
Eucalyptus oil: According to, adding several drops of eucalyptus oil to bath water or to a vaporizer can help to reduce a runny nose and associated symptoms in babies. Menthol and pine oil also work fine.