Acute Runny & Stuffed Nose in Children

Stuffed Nose

A runny or stuffed nose in children may occur for a number of reasons and if it is acute (short term) and not hampering the child’s daily activities, then it is not usually a cause for concern. A runny nose is presents with a leaky nasal discharge, usually clear, thin and watery but may also be thick and white, yellow or green. A stuffed nose may occur simultaneously with a runny nose or the nose may be dry but the child complains of nasal congestion and blockage when breathing through the nostrils. A nasal tone to the voice is usually present and coughing may also occur if the mucus drips to the back of the throat (post nasal drip).

The lining of the nose and sinuses are composed of a thin mucus membrane which produces mucus constantly. This maintains the moisture of the nasal lining, which is essential for healthy nasal passages, and usually goes unnoticed. Certain triggers may cause an acute runny or stuffed nose, depending on the individual predisposition and medical history of the child. This includes heat, cold, changes in weather, certain foods and cold drinks or the presence of dust. If the nasal discharge and congestion clears quickly without any treatment, then it is usually not a serious condition.

Causes of Runny or Stuffed Nose

However certain contributing factors can contribute to an acute runny or stuffed nose, which may be severe and should be addressed. These include :

A runny or stuffed nose is a general symptom with no clear cause in many cases but if it persists, is accompanied by a fever, is affecting the child’s functioning or causing coughing or breathing difficulties, then it should be investigated. Many parents ignore about it, believing that it is an acute bout and only seeking treatment when other, more serious signs and symptoms arise. This is not advisable if the runny or stuffed nose is persisting and if the child has a history of upper and lower respiratory tract conditions like hay fever, sinusitis or bronchial asthma.

Treatment of a Runny or Stuffed Nose

If your doctor verifies that the runny or stuffed nose is not an indication of a more serious underlying condition, then the  nasal irritation can be managed conservatively without resorting to medication. Anti-histamines may provide symptomatic relief and reduce nasal discharge. If an infection is evident, a course of antibiotics may be necessary, even as a precaution, to prevent more serious respiratory tract complications like acute sinusitis or bronchitis. Corticosteroids are usually not necessary unless the nasal obstruction is severe, causing a post nasal drip and persistent inflammation of the respiratory tract. A saline nasal spray is usually safe to use to ease nasal congestion and maintain the health of the nasal lining. In toddlers, a foreign body in the nose should always be excluded as a possible cause for a stuffed nose.

Preventing Nasal Congestion & Discharge

If there are clear aggravating or causative factors for a runny or stuffed nose, it should be avoided. Cigarette smoke, cold drinks, air conditioning and dust are the among the more common cause of an acute nasal irritation and conservative measures are important to prevent respiratory complications from a runny or stuffy nose.



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