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Nasal Congestion in Toddler



Nasal Congestion

Sniffling is the loud and at times forced breathing through the nose often as a result of Nasal congestion. We all experience the sniffles at some point or the other – with a cold or after crying. In most cases it is short term. Constant sniffling over a long period of time is usually associates with conditions that affect the nasal cavity (nose) and paranasal sinuses. Sniffling goes beyond just being an irritation to the child and those around them. The conditions that cause sniffling may affect normal nasal breathing, sense of smell and lead to a nasal tone to the voice.

Causes of Nasal congestion

The nasal cavity is lined with a thin epithelium known as the nasal mucosa. It as specialized cells that secrete mucus which helps to moisten the mucosa and trap and incoming dust and microbes. Tiny hairs also help with filtering the air. Since the paranasal sinuses are continuous with the nasal cavity, it has the same lining. Runny nose (rhinitis) and nasal congestion and paranasal sinuses is largely due to an excess of mucus secretion  and less commonly with problems with mucus drainage which may  be caused by a number of conditions like :

Some unusual types of rhinitis may even cause a runny nose with eating certain foods and exposure to bright light. Other childhood infections, like chickenpox and measles, which are not typically associate with the nose may also be a possible cause. A foreign body in the nasal cavity can also be another cause and this is almost never seen in adults. Children, being naturally playful, may attempt to insert small objects into the nose only to cause it to become stuck here.

Other causative factors that may not be given as much attention is acid reflux which is not as uncommon as previously thought. The rising stomach acid especially at night when sleeping can reach the nasal cavity and irritate the nasal lining. This causes an excess of mucus which may present as a runny nose with or without nasal congestion.

Other Signs and Symptoms

Sniffling is just one feature of a stuffy nose or a runny nose. Other signs and symptoms :

  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Reduced sense of smell
  • Itchy nose
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Snoring

A fever may be an indication of an infection. Recurrent bouts of sneezing particularly at certain times of the day, specific seasons or with exposure to identifiable irritants may be an indication of an allergy.


The treatment will depend entirely on the cause. Saline nasal sprays are a general measure to maintain the health of the nasal lining. It is also effective for acute conditions like an infection but should only be use if advised by a medical doctor. Antihistamines may be necessary for allergies and severe cases may warrant the use of corticosteroid sprays. Antibiotics are indicate for bacterial infections like in acute sinusitis. Viral infections like the common cold and flu do not require specific treatment and resolves within days.

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