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Infant Congestion: Why Is Your Newborn Sneezing So Much?

As the parent of a newborn baby, you may find it difficult at times to judge when your baby is normal and when they aren't. Many times, newborns sneeze way more often than adults and even older kids. Did you know that it helps babies to deal with stuffy noses? But infant congestion isn’t the only reason for baby sneezing. Read on to learn why babies sneeze a lot and when it might be a sign of illness.

Why are babies sneezing a lot? 

There are various reasons for your newborn sneezing a lot. Sneezing implies that the nervous system of your infant is working properly, since sneezing is a reflex that it controls. It's completely normal for newborns babies to sneeze more frequently, along with yawning, spitting up, hiccuping, burping, and gurgling. 

Newborn sneezing is a reflex that occurs upon irritation of their nasal passages, similar to when adults sneeze. Since the nasal passages of newborns are smaller than those of adults, they can get clogged easily and need to be cleared more often. Newborns sneeze to remove mucus, smoke, dust, and breast milk from their nose. 

Newborn sneezing is also a natural way babies protect themselves against the large number of germs they are regularly exposed to. Sneezing helps clear out the particles and germs that may try to enter your baby's system by way of the nasal passages. 

Why do newborns have stuffy noses?

There are a wide range of causes of a newborn stuffy nose. These include:

  • A runny nose and stuffy nose due to nasal congestion or a cold.
  • Amniotic fluid that entered the nasal passage during birth and can take a few days to clear up.
  • Deep breaths, causing turbulence in the nasal passages and making the breathing of a newborn sound stuffy. It's normal for newborn breathing to be shallow, followed by a few pauses and then deeper breaths.
  • Regurgitated milk that entered the nasal passage and caused mild swelling. This can happen because infants often have reflux during the initial months of their life.
  • The nasal passages of your baby contain tiny hairs and glands that produce mucus to prevent dust, dirt, and other particles from entering the lungs. Due to this, the breathing of a newborn may produce stuffy sounds. 
  • Naturally smaller nasal passages that create a stuffy sound during newborn breathing.
  • A deviated nasal septum causing a stuffy nose.

Causes of your baby sneezing, other than infant congestion

Sometimes, a baby's sneezing isn't caused by congestion. Other potential causes include:

Allergies

Allergies or hay fever may be among the causes of your baby sneezing a lot. Hay fever is also called allergic rhinitis and it causes newborn nasal congestion. Common allergens that may cause allergic rhinitis in your baby include pollen, dust mites, pet dander, grass, and mold. Apart from sneezing, other symptoms of hay fever include an itchy and runny nose, stuffy nose, and watery eyes. Your baby may also experience ear pain. 

Dry air

The nasal passages of newborns are small, which means the mucus present in their noses dries quickly. This may occur more frequently during the winter months when the air is dry, in an air-conditioned environment, or in dry weather. This may cause excessive newborn sneezing.

Blocked nostril

While nursing, your baby is pressed towards you gently and this can flattening his or her tiny nostrils. This temporarily blocks the nostrils, and your baby's sneezing unclogs them.  

Tiny nose

The nose of your baby is very small and has narrow nasal passages that may attract particles of dust from the environment. Your baby may sneeze more often to clear his or her nasal passages. 

Illness

Newborn sneezing may also indicate that your baby is suffering from a cold. Other symptoms of a cold may include nasal discharge, coughing, fever, low appetite, and fussiness. Since the immunity of a newborn baby is weak, you must ensure that any person who is touching the baby washes his or hands thoroughly beforehand. 

When baby sneezing is a symptom

Newborn sneezing frequently may also indicate that the baby has an infection of the respiratory tract. Immediately visit a doctor if your baby is having any of the following symptoms along with frequent sneezing:

  • Cough
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fever (at or higher than 100.4 degrees F)
  • Denying feeds (both breastfeeding and formula)

In some women, excessive newborn sneezing may be a sign of a medical condition referred to neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). The syndrome occurs when the mother of the baby has abused opiate drugs (that cause addiction) during pregnancy. Some of the other symptoms include a stuffy nose, tremor, abnormal nipple latch, seizures, sleep problems, vomiting, and an unsustained suck. A baby that has NAS will experience withdrawal symptoms due to the drugs used by the mother. 

Baby congestion remedies: when the baby’s sneezing is not enough 

Unfortunately, no cure exists for viruses that cause the common cold. If your baby suffers from a mild viral cold, you can’t do much apart from keeping them comfortable, offering them frequent feedings, and ensuring that they get lots of sleep. 

Feeding

It becomes even more important for a newborn baby to get enough calories and hydration when they're not fully well. One way to measure your baby's hydration is to check the number of diapers they wet in a day. Properly hydrated infants should wet at least one diaper every six to seven hours. 

Steam and humidifier

Running a humidifier in your baby's room while he or she is sleeping may help to loosen the mucus and relieve a congested newborn. You may also sit in the steam of the hot shower with your baby for 10 to 15 minutes many times a day.

Nasal saline drops

Using a bulb (nasal syringe), put one to two drops of isotonic nasal saline in your baby’s nose to help loosen the mucus. 

Massage

You may gently massage the eyebrows, bridge of the nose, bottom of the head, hairline, and cheekbones. This may help soothe a congested newborn. 

Don’t use vapor rub or medication

The majority of cold medicines aren’t effective or safe for babies, and vapor rubs have been proven to be harmful to babies younger than two years old. Avoid using them. 

Medical treatment

If your newborn's congestion becomes extreme, then your baby may be suffering from a condition that needs antibiotics, extra oxygen, or other types of medical treatments. In such cases, you should take your baby to a doctor where he or she may do a chest X-ray to diagnose the condition and provide appropriate treatment. 

There are multiple possible reasons for your newborn to be sneezing excessively. It's a natural way for babies to protect themselves from the germs that may try to enter their system through the nasal passages. Apart from infant congestion, some of the causes of newborn sneezing include allergies, dry air, a blocked nostril, a tiny nose, and a cold. When your baby is sneezing a lot due to a viral illness, the best thing you can do is keep him or her comfortable. You may run a humidifier in the room and put a drop or two of nasal saline in the nostrils. In extreme cases of newborn congestion, take your baby to a doctor for further diagnosis and treatment. 

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9706-newborn-behavior

https://parenting.firstcry.com/articles/baby-sneezing-is-it-normal/

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-newborns-have-stuffy-noses_n_4254692

https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD006821.pub3/epdf/full

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