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    Infant Congestion: Why Do Newborns Sneeze So Much?

    Updated 18 March 2021 |
    Published 14 August 2019
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    Parents of newborn babies often find it difficult to know what’s normal baby behavior and what isn’t. Often, newborns sneeze much more often than adults and even older kids. It helps babies deal with stuffy noses. But infant congestion isn’t the only reason for a baby sneezing. Read on to learn why babies sneeze a lot and when it might be a sign of illness.

    Why do babies sneeze a lot? 

    There are various reasons for a newborn sneezing a lot. Sneezing implies that their nervous system is working properly, since sneezing is a reflex controlled by the nervous system. It’s completely normal for newborn 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 that babies protect themselves against the large number of germs they are regularly exposed to. Sneezing helps clear out the particles and germs that try to enter their nasal passages. 

    Why do newborns have stuffy noses?

    There are a wide range of causes of a newborn’s 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 that can take a few days to clear up.
    • Deep breaths, causing turbulence in the nasal passages, can make the breathing of a newborn sound stuffy. It’s normal for newborn breathing to be shallow at first, 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.
    • Babies’ nasal passages 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 create a stuffy sound during newborn breathing.
    • A deviated nasal septum can cause a stuffy nose.

    Causes of 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 a 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 babies 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. Babies may also experience ear pain.

    Dry air

    The nasal passages of newborns are small, which means the mucus 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 nostrils

    While nursing, babies are gently pressed against the breast, flattening their tiny nostrils. This temporarily blocks the nostrils, and a baby’s sneezing unclogs them.

    Tiny noses

    Babies’ noses are very small and have narrow nasal passages that may attract particles of dust from the environment. A baby may sneeze more often to clear their nasal passages. 

    Illness

    Newborn sneezing may also indicate that the baby has 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, anyone who touches the baby should wash their hands thoroughly beforehand. 

    When baby sneezing is a symptom

    Frequent newborn sneezing may also indicate that the baby has an infection of the respiratory tract. If a baby has any of the following symptoms along with frequent sneezing, an immediate visit to a health care provider is warranted:

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

    Excessive newborn sneezing may be a sign of a medical condition referred to as 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 with NAS will experience withdrawal symptoms due to the drugs used by the mother. 

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

    There is no cure for the viruses that cause the common cold. If a baby has a mild viral cold, there isn’t much that can be done 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’r