There was a time that babies over a year could have a decongestant or a cough suppressant when they were sick. Infants might not have had access to much in the way of mucous control, but the bigger babies and toddlers certainly did. Now, however, it’s been shown that these sorts of medicines might be dangerous for the littlest members of society and are no longer available. That leaves all of us in a bit of a muddle as to how to help the toddler whose stuffy nose and cough keep him (and the rest of us) awake at night. Treating a cold or allergies without medicine for the little guys and girls isn’t perfect, but it can help a great deal.
Your first step is to try your best to figure out what is going on with the nose and the snot and mucous that is seeping out of your child. It could be any number of things – not all of which are colds. Teething, especially molars, can cause some serious drippiness while those large teeth are coming through. Hay fever or seasonal allergies can stir up some sneezing and moisture from the nose as well. However, many of the worst noses faced as parents are the products of the innumerable small diseases babies and toddlers get. Some seem to have a runny nose the entire winter or from the beginning of the school year to the end – although if this is the case, see your doctor to be sure nothing more serious than the occasional cold is occurring.
There is nothing worse than having a sinus cavity full of moisture only to have it dry up overnight with the heater on and dealing with a raw throat and stuffy nose that won’t drain in the morning. It’s best to keep your child’s air moist, especially at night when he is likely sleeping with his mouth open. Breathing in the moist air while he sleeps will help to prevent the dry and sore throat that open accompanies the runny nose and sinus congestion.
A humidifier is an easy way to keep the moisture in the air. A steamy shower or bath in the morning or before bed can loosen some of the congestion and allow your child to clear it or for you to suction it out en masse. It will build again, but at least the moisture and occasional removal gives a temporary reprieve.
When you put your little one to sleep, be sure to elevate his head. The more tipped back his head is – comfortably, of course – the more the congestion can simply drain down the throat and keep the ears, sinuses and nostrils free. Avoid lying flat and don’t push your child into a sitting position. Use a pillow under the mattress to tip babies up a bit or use a pillow or two to prop up the older child into a very reclined position for a more comfortable night.
Since you can’t use medicine to make the congestion dry up, you have to just wait it out. Most colds can last up to two weeks with that drippy nose the first and last element to disappear. If your child has symptoms longer than this, speak with your doctor, but the typical cold will clear on its own in a week or two leaving you sleepless and tense, but with the knowledge and experience of how to weather the next one.
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