Treating Sinus Congestion When Your Baby Gets a Severe Cold
Few things can panic parents as much as when their baby gets a severe cold, with it's associated fever, sinus congestion, sneezing and coughs. They often feel helpless as they watch their Little One deal with the symptoms. But there are things that can be done. The first is to learn about the condition. Knowledge is power.
The common cold is caused by over 200 varieties of rhinoviruses, meaning they attack the upper respiratory system (from the Greek word "rhino", meaning "nose"). They are transmitted by direct contact with airborne particles of mucous and saliva, usually expelled by an infected person during a coughing, or sneezing episode. Less frequently, the virus can also be transmitted by direct contact, such as kissing, or indirect contact, such as drinking after an infected person. The virus makes it's way to the sinus cavities, and upper respiratory tract, where it incubates for up to 16 days. The virus is still transmittable during it's incubation stage, even though no symptoms may be noticed. Once the incubation period has completed, the virus will spread it's spores to a new host by causing it's current host to sneeze, and cough, from irritation and excess mucous production in the sinus cavities. The coughing, sneezing, and runny nose expel tiny spore-laden particles of mucous and saliva into the air, to be inhaled by other nearby potential hosts, and also creates the hazard of indirect transmission by contact with contaminated tissues, and such. Once the spores are inhaled, the cycle starts over in the new host.
A cold is usually caused by several varieties of viruses at once, hence the varied symptoms. The assortment of viruses means that there is no complete cure for a cold. Treatment is limited to easing the discomfort from the symptoms. The viruses will disappear in a week, or up to 25 days in severe cases, with no lasting health issues. Colds are seldom life-threatening. Only the very elderly, or people with compromised immune systems are at any risk for serious problems.
Babies are especially susceptible to catching colds, because their immune systems are not fully developed. In fact, colds are important for babies because the viruses actually strengthen their immune responses, and help them to develop. It is not uncommon for a baby to contract 6 or more colds in it's first year of life. It is part of the natural growing process.
This is little comfort to parents with a sick child. One of the worst symptoms for babies is the sinus congestion, because they have a bias towards breathing through their nose. They can, and do breathe through their mouths, but will continue to try to nose-breathe, regardless of sinus blockage. This causes them to stress, and can hamper recovery time. But, it is easily treatable.
One thing you never want to do is give your baby any decongestants, or antihistamines, unless specifically prescribed by your doctor. They can have side-effects your baby cannot deal with, yet. The best way to to ease sinus congestion is to just remove it. Baby aspirators are inexpensive, have no side-effects, and are easy to use. There are many types to choose from. The simplest is a bulb-syringe. There are manually operated operated devices, battery-powered, and one that even uses your vacuum cleaner's suction (greatly reduced, of course...). They all work well, so the type you decide to use is a matter of personal preference.
Whatever type you use, you should always irrigate the baby's sinus cavity with a saline solution to loosen dried mucous. Dry mucous will hurt when it comes loose, and can damage tender sinus tissue. You also limit aspiration to no more than 4 or 5 times a day, because too much will also irritate the baby's tender sinus tissues. Periodic use of a baby sinus aspirator will make your baby much more comfortable while it fights off a severe cold.
This article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice of any kind. If you feel your baby has a health concern, seek the advice of a licensed physician.