Chest Congestion in Babies

Written by melissa elizondo
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Chest congestion is common in babies. It can be frustrating because you cannot give your baby any over-the-counter medications, and it can be difficult to tell if the congestion is just the common cold or something more serious.


A cough is one of the most common symptoms of chest congestion. A dry cough doesn't produce any mucus, while a wet cough does. Your baby also may have wheezing and nasal stuffiness along with chest congestion. She may eat poorly and show difficulty or laboured breathing, which needs immediate medical attention.


One of the most common causss of chest congestion is a cold. Other factors include different viruses, such as the flu.

Another virus that can cause chest congestion is respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which can be serious in younger infants. RSV is a virus with symptoms similar to the common cold. It can be harder for younger infants' immune systems to fight it off, which can place them in the hospital. It can be difficult to determine if your baby has a cold, flu or RSV. See your doctor for a correct diagnosis.

Your baby could also have croup. A baby with croup will have a repetitive cough. His cough will sound like a barking seal, which is caused by the swelling of the trachea. Most of the time croup is not considered serious. Allergies are another less common cause of chest congestion.

When to See Your Doctor

If your baby's symptoms seem to worsen, make an appointment to see the paediatrician. Infants younger than three months old should be seen by a doctor because the congestion could turn into a serious illness. See you doctor if your baby is not wetting as many diapers as usual or has a cough that lasts more than a week. If your baby is refusing fluids, coughing up blood or has difficulty breathing, seek medical help immediately.


Some ways to treat chest congestion include using a cool-mist humidifier or vaporiser. Both a vaporiser and humidifier do the same job by adding moisture to the air to help relieve congestion. The only difference is that a cool-mist humidifier emits cool moisture, and a vaporiser emits warm steam. Make sure to clean the humidifier or vaporiser often to prevent a build-up of mould. If you use a vaporiser, place it out of reach of your baby because it can cause burns.

Another way to relieve chest congestion is to take your baby into the bathroom, and shut the door. Turn on a hot shower. As the steam fills the bathroom, pat your baby firmly on the back. This will help loosen the congestion in the chest. Another option is placing a pillow underneath your baby's crib mattress where she lays her head. Sleeping upright can help relieve chest congestion. Never place a pillow on top of the mattress where your baby sleeps because she could end up underneath the pillow and unable to breathe.


It is important to continue breastfeeding if you are doing so, as it can provide antibodies to help fight off viruses, such as a cold. Try to keep your baby from away from anyone who is sick, especially if you have a newborn. Wash your hands before feeding or caring for your baby, and ask others to do the same. Clean your baby's toys and pacifiers often. Try to keep a few toys handy in your diaper bag that are safe for your baby to put in her mouth to prevent her from chewing on other things.

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