A toddler’s runny nose is a common phenomenon and toddlers’ inability to blow the nose tends to exacerbate it. Here is a breakdown of everything you need to know including what green mucus means and options for chronic and constant nasal discharge.
A toddler runny nose and cough
Toddlers have an immature immune system which makes them susceptible to a whole lot of medical conditions associated with rhinorrhoea that is accompanied by coughing.
This may be caused by one of the following factors:
Infections: Viral infections, chief among being the common cold, are to blame for most cases.
This is hardly surprising given the fact that there are more than 200 viruses that can cause the common cold and for which toddlers are developing immunity one at a time. Furthermore, toddlers tend to touch anything they come across which makes it easy for them to pick infections.
Allergies: Babies can develop an allergy when exposed to allergens such as pollen, dust mite etc., just as is the case with adults. Allergies are usually associated with clear nasal drainage (mucus) as opposed to the green or yellowish one that often characterizes common cold.
NB: While sinusitis (sinus infection) is a common cause of a runny nose and other symptoms such as a cough in adults, it is not as such common among children aged below 7 years.
This is because sinus cavities are usually “not fully developed until adolescence” as Dr. Christopher Chang, an Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgeon based in Warrenton, Virginia says.
Constant cases are most commonly triggered by a bout of common cold. A runny nose can especially seem to last significantly when a cold runs into another as Jennifer Shu, MD, the author of Heading Home With Your Newborn says.
A constant rhinorrhoea may be an indication of continued exposure to allergens, cold weather (which irritates the nasal lining leading to rhinorrhoea), and spicy foods. It is common for symptoms to last as long as 10 days and you should not worry before 10 days unless your toddler:
- Gets lethargic
- Is having trouble breathing
- Refuses to eat or drink
- Has high-grade fever
- Seems irritable and inconsolable
Common colds often cause a watery clear mucus which may then thicken and turn green or yellow at later stages (a week or so later).
Unfortunately, green and yellow nasal discharge (mucus) is also often an indication of other more serious problems such as bacterial infection and foreign objects stuffed in the nose.
The Baby Center UK website recommends checking out for tell-tale signs of more serious infections such as high fever that lasts more than 2 days, pulling and rubbing the ears, refusing to eat, etc. (keep in mind though that toddler tends to eat a bit less and drag a bit) when sick. These signs warrant the attention of your pediatrician.
It should also concern you if it is accompanied by such as diarrhea and vomiting, which are often associated with flu.
What about chronic rhinorrhoea toddlers, the kind that never seems to ever go away or keeps coming back every now and then. Well, there are various common causes of such cases.
Allergies, enlarged adenoids, and respiratory tract illnesses and infections top the list, but deviated septum, cystic fibrosis (a rare genetic disorder) and choanal atresia (rare anatomical defect) may as well be to blame albeit rarely.
Having a foreign object stuck in the nose could also be a causative factor for chronic cases and is often associated with other symptoms such as unpleasantly smelling nasal discharge that drains from one nostril only, blood-tinged discharged, and sudden pain.
All a chronic runny nose in toddlers warrants medical attention for proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
How to stop with saline solutions – Treatment
A runny nose is the body’s way of getting rid of perceived threats and will in most cases clear on its own in a matter of days. On the downside though, too much of discharge can make your child uncomfortable.
This guide on how to stop it in a toddler focuses on the use of saline solutions as a way to loosen and flush out excess mucus and allergens and unclog the nasal cavities
- Prepare a salty water solution by placing ¼ teaspoon in a cup of warm water
- Place a few drops of the solution into each nostril
- Use a bulb syringe (you may hear other names such as a nasal aspirator, suction bulb etc.) to draw out the excess mucus in your kid’s nostrils. Press the bulb first to drive out air and then release it gently when inside your baby’s nostril.
- Repeat this process several times each day as needed.
- This helps to
- You may as well use a store-bought saline drops preparation.
Medicine clear or relief it
When talking about toddler runny nose medicine, most parents are actually referring to common cold medicines since colds are the most common cause of nasal discharge in toddlers.
Jennifer Shu, MD, however, says that cold medicines are generally not recommended. The American Academy of Pediatrics also echoes the sentiment saying that over-the-counter cold medicines have not been proven to be effective in children aged below 6 years and may indeed have serious side effects.
It is thus advisable to talk to your pediatrician about the kind of medicine he suggests. Your pediatrician may consider giving either Acetaminophen (Infant Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (children’s Motrin) to relieve your little one of high fever
NB: Aspirin should never be given to children aged below 16 years as it makes them more susceptible to Reye’s syndrome. This is a rare but fatal condition that causes swelling of the liver and brain.
In addition to using saline solution, you may as well want to consider one or more of the following home remedies for a runny nose in toddlers:
- Apply a thin film of petroleum jelly on the outside of your baby’s nostril to minimize irritation.
- Run a humidifier to moisten the air around your bedroom.
- Keep your baby hydrated by breastfeeding her frequently.
- Have a hot shower for 15 minutes together with your toddler.
- Baby Center recommends giving your baby a few ounces of Pedialyte, or electrolyte if your baby is not drinking very well.