A Little More Wisdom

Baby’s Runny Nose: What’s Normal and What’s Not

Written by
Cathy Hale
on February 3rd, 2020

Little Coughs Little Colds fevers

As a new mom, it might surprise you to learn that your baby’s cute button nose may seem like it’s runny and gunky – perhaps even crusty – most of the time. Speaking from my own personal experience, I vividly remember chasing my babies around with tissues, because their noses seemed eternally runny.

Every so often my babies would dazzle me with a huge sneeze and giant snot bubble or a big laugh that resulted in a mucous explosion. Looking back, I’m sure they didn’t have a non-stop runny nose for two years, but it sure felt like it at the time.

Runny noses are just another facet of motherhood. Most moms will agree we’ve all been through it. Even though it sounds like it’s not a big deal, a runny nose can be surprisingly disruptive. Sometimes babies don’t sleep well and don’t eat as well with a stuffy nose. They tend to get cranky and fussy as a result. Even with the softest, most gentle tissues or the cutest nasal aspirator, you can’t seem to avoid skin irritation and wiping a tender nose is even more problematic.

Of course, you feel helpless to see your cute little baby with an icky runny nose. It’s also hard to figure out if a runny nose is a normal runny nose or if it requires a doctor visit, so that can make a seemingly harmless runny nose stressful for parents.

Is it a cold?

The first thing moms wonder when they spot a runny nose is “Uh-oh, is this a cold?” While newborns routinely experience nasal congestion, a cold is different. With a cold the baby’s nose will run and have clear to colored mucous, and they will typically cough, just like all of us with a cold.

Does this color look normal?

What you might not know is it’s normal for your baby’s mucous to change colors when she has runny nose symptoms. Infants typically experience nasal congestion where they are plugged up inside and about 2-3 days later you’ll start to see post-nasal drip.

The mucous can be yellow or even greenish, but don’t be alarmed because that’s not necessarily signs of an infection (sinus or cold). The mucous has been sitting in your baby’s nose or nasal cavity for days as part of the body’s natural autoimmune response to fight off infection. During that time it fills with captured bacteria or viruses. That’s why the discharge turns different colors, from white to yellow to green.

Is a runny nose with fever normal?

It’s not uncommon for a baby over the age of 2 months to run a slight fever with their cold. A fever is defined as a temperature over 100.4 degrees. This means if your baby has a runny nose and a fever, that’s normal for a cold. If the fever remains low, it shouldn’t last more than a day or two.

A fever as the result of a cold should also respond to the appropriate dose of acetaminophen for your child’s weight like Little Remedies® Infant & Fever Pain Reliever.

Runny nose + breathing issues are not normal

What you need to keep an eye on while you’re grabbing tissues and easing runny nose symptoms is how your baby is breathing. If your baby is showing signs of congestion with a runny nose, look at your child’s chest while they are breathing and coughing to make sure that they are not having any respiratory distress.

One way you can monitor their breathing is by undoing their onesie or taking off their pajamas and looking at their chest. As our baby expert, Dr. Sue Hubbard explains, “You do not want to see your child’s chest moving in and out (which is called retracting) or see that they are using their tummy (which is going up and down) to help them breathe.” This is called “work of breathing” and it’s a sign of distressed breathing.

“The cough may sound horrible, but always look at the chest (the visual is as important as the audible),” says Dr. Sue. “The chest should be nice and pink, even when they are coughing.”

Most of the runny noses you’ll encounter are totally normal, even if they look pretty gross. If you have any concerns about your child’s breathing or symptoms worsen, always call your doctor.
Did you feel like your baby had a runny nose all of the time? What did you do to soothe it? Let us know in the comments section on our Facebook page.

Cathy Hale

About Cathy Hale

Cathy Hale is a nationally recognized writer and lifestyle blogger.

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