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Chronic Congestion vs. A Stuffy Nose: What Parents and Caregivers Need to Know

Chronic Congestion vs. A Stuffy Nose: What Parents and Caregivers Need to Know

Guest Post By Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN

The odds are, as a parent or caregiver, you’ll navigate several stuffy and runny noses over a year. Whether it’s the middle of winter and your little one has a cold or the beginning of spring and all those beautiful flowers are making their nose run, there are several reasons for congestion. 

But what if their nose always seems congested, and you’re unsure of the cause? Here we break down chronic congestion and how it differs from common reasons for acute congestion.

Chronic Congestion vs. A Stuffy Nose: What Parents and Caregivers Need to Know

Chronic Congestion vs. A Stuffy Nose: What Parents and Caregivers Need to Know

Runny Noses in Kids

There are several reasons for runny noses in kids and the congestion that can come along with a runny nose. Most of these reasons will clear up on their own over time. Common reasons a child may have a runny nose include:

  • Indoor allergens
  • Seasonal allergies
  • A cold and other viral illnesses
  • Sinus infections (also often caused by a virus)

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) explains that for most runny noses, antibiotics aren’t necessary. Often if a child is sick with a runny nose, the cause is viral and can be treated with over-the-counter home remedies.  

Treating Runny Noses in Kids

Treating a child’s runny nose often involves managing the symptoms. So, if your child has a runny nose because they are acutely sick, options for symptoms care per the AAP include:

  • Treating a fever with medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen (also known as TylenolⓇ and Children’s MotrinⓇ)
  • Managing aches and pains with acetaminophen or ibuprofen
  • Loosening congestion by using a cool-mist humidifier
  • Helping a cough by offering a spoonful of honey if your child is a year or older 

If allergies cause your little one’s nasal congestion, there are allergy medications and nasal sprays that can help too.

And, of course, if your child is congested, the NozeBot is a great tool to help your little one breathe easier and get relief. The nasal suction from the NozeBot will quickly help clear your baby or toddler’s nose and is a great tool to have in your home.

Just remember that if your baby is younger than three months (12 weeks) and develops a fever, they need to be seen by a healthcare provider to rule out more serious causes of illness. Additionally, if a medication is new to your child or you are unsure of the dose, touch base with your child’s healthcare provider, pharmacist, or your provider’s nurse line for instructions. 

Chronic Congestion

Chronic Congestion

While many cases of congestion resolve after an illness or go away after the peak of allergy season, there are instances where the congestion remains chronic. Generally, chronic congestion means that the health issue has gone on for three months or more. However, regardless of how long the congestion has been going on, if it impacts your child’s quality of life (i.e., causing sleeping difficulties), reach out to your child’s healthcare provider.

There are several causes of chronic congestion. These can range from an infection called sinusitis, allergies, or differences in the shape of your child’s nose or face. Examples of structural differences in the face, per Nationwide Children’s, that can cause chronic nasal congestion include:

  • Deviation in the nasal septum
  • An enlarged part of the inside of the nose called the inferior turbinates
  • Nasal polyps
  • Congenital narrowing of the nose
  • Large adenoids (tissue between your nose and the back of your throat)

Regardless of what ends up being the cause of chronic congestion, your child’s primary care provider is a great place to start. If the issue is sinusitis and a bacterial infection has developed, they can prescribe antibiotics.

Similarly, if your child seems to have year round allergy symptoms, such as a runny nose, they can help refer you to an allergist to pinpoint a cause and also provide recommendations on which medications may help. For example, the cause could be mold, dust mites, or pet dander.

And if your child’s healthcare provider is concerned about health issues such as nasal polyps or a deviated nasal septum, they can help provide a referral to a doctor who specializes in conditions of the ears, nose, and throat, also known as an ENT doctor.

Looking for more tips on dealing with congestion? You’ll find these helpful:

 what parents need to know about Chronic Congestion

Key Takeaways for Chronic Congestion

Stuffy noses and sick kids can be stressful. Fortunately many cases of runny noses in kids are due to acute causes that will resolve within a matter of weeks, such as seasonal allergies or colds. And for most stuffy noses, using the NozeBot, along with other symptomatic care can provide significant relief.

 With hospital grade suction, dishwasher safe parts, and disposable filters, the NozeBot makes relieving your child’s congestion simple!

 However, if you notice your child’s runny nose lingering on for weeks, well-beyond when you would expect it to improve, reach out to your healthcare provider for advice. There may be more behind your child’s possible chronic congestion. And specialists, such as an ENT doctor, can help provide relief.

 And if your child’s congestion impacts their ability to breathe or they develop other symptoms that concern you, seek medical care. Your child’s healthcare provider, or other medical professional if it’s after hours, are here to help you and provide advice on the best next steps.

Genevieve Kane, MSN, RN, is a mother of four and a registered nurse with a background in pediatrics. When she's not working, you can find her cooking up tasty family dinners or keeping up with her kids on a hiking trail in her home state of Colorado.

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