Toddler, Child
5th Aug 2020

When your little one has a runny nose, it may feel like an ongoing game of chasey with a box of tissues.

If your little one is feeling all blocked up the nasal congestion may be uncomfortable for them, not to mention the sore nose that can come with continual wiping and blowing.

So, you may be left wondering what’s causing the sniffles, how might you help prevent them, and what tips may help provide some relief?

Why Do Some Children Get Runny Noses?

If your child has a runny nose, your first port of call should be your health professional to determine the cause. Two of the common contributors to children’s sniffles are hayfever and the common cold.

It’s suggested that hayfever affects one in 10 children (1). Known in the medical world as allergic rhinitis, one of its tell-tale symptoms may be a runny nose.

Seasonal allergies are most common, mainly occurring in the spring or summer and are a reaction to certain pollens. But, your little one may also experience hayfever year-round (called perennial hayfever) (2). Common triggers for this kind of hayfever are dust mites and pet fur.

If you think your child may be experiencing allergies, take them to see your health professional.

However, a runny nose doesn’t necessarily mean your child is dealing with hayfever, it may also be a symptom of the common cold.

Young children sometimes catch colds more frequently than adults as their little immune systems are still developing (3).

While allergies and the common cold are the two main causes of runny noses in children, younger babies may experience congestion for a variety of reasons. If you’d like to learn more about other common causes of babies’ stuffy noses, click here.

Can You Tell the Difference Between a Common Cold and Hayfever?

Thanks to an overlap in symptoms, it can be tricky to tell a common cold and hayfever apart. So, it’s best to talk to your doctor to determine the cause of your little one’s runny nose.

Hayfever symptoms may vary over time, which may make it difficult to distinguish from the common cold without your doctor’s advice.

The reason that the symptoms of the common cold and hayfever can be so similar is because they trigger the same immune cells (4), which leads to a pesky blocked nose and nasal inflammation.

However, there are a couple of things to take note of, which may be useful to discuss with your health professional:

  • Symptom persistence – while a runny nose and nasal congestion may be a sign of a pesky cold, if they stick around for a couple of weeks your little one may be experiencing hayfever (5). Talk to your health professional about the duration of your child’s runny nose.
  • Nasal discharge colour – your little one’s mucous is more likely to be a yellowish/green colour if they’ve got a cold, while it’s clear if they have hayfever (4). Discuss the colour of your child’s nasal discharge with your health professional.

For more tips about how to tell the difference between a cold or allergies, click here.

How May You Help Prevent a Runny Nose?

There are some things you can do that may help to prevent some of the common conditions that may cause a runny nose.

Runny Nose Caused by Allergies:

Although hayfever can’t be cured, identifying the triggers of your child’s allergies as well as avoiding or minimising contact with them may help to reduce the frequency of flare-ups (2). If your little one is allergic to pollen (seasonal hayfever), checking the pollen count may help you be conscious of when their hayfever symptoms may be more prevalent (2).

Runny Nose Caused by a Common Cold:

One of the best ways to prevent the common cold is to practice good personal hygiene and support a healthy immune system.

This means teaching your child hygiene habits, including adequate hand washing techniques and how to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (3).

And, when it comes to supporting their immune system health, a balanced diet packed with vitamins and minerals is an important factor. You can discover more tips for supporting your child’s healthy immune system function here.

Tips to Help Relieve Your Child’s Runny Nose

If your little one is experiencing discomfort associated with their runny nose, these tips may help.

Remove the Mucous

It may seem obvious but clearing the excess mucous may help to temporarily relieve the discomfort of a runny nose. Depending on your child’s age, one common method for removing the mucous is simply blowing their nose.

To teach them how, try holding a tissue over their nose, and instructing them to blow out birthday candles or blow bubbles through their nose with their mouth shut (6).

If your child is too young to blow their nose, you may wish to use a bulb syringe (also known as a nasal aspirator) to gently suction out the mucous. You can learn more about how to use a nasal aspirator on your baby or child here.

Saline

If your little one is feeling all blocked up, saline drops or spray may provide relief by diluting the mucous, making more easily blown or suctioned out (7).

Steam

Moist air may also help to loosen the mucous that’s causing their nasal congestion, so inhaling steam under adult supervision may also help to relieve your child’s blocked nose. Running a shower in a closed room may be an easy-to-implement method (8), as may be a humidifier.

Additional Support

At Brauer, we understand that having a blocked nose may be uncomfortable for your little one. If you’re looking for additional support, Brauer may be able to help. Click here to find out more or visit your friendly local pharmacist.

This medicine may not be right for you. Read the label before purchase. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.

Have you found this information helpful? If so, you may enjoy the following:

The Most Common Illnesses For Children And How To Spot Them 

References

  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). Allergic rhinitis (‘hay fever’). [online] Available at: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-respiratory-conditions/allergic-rhinitis-hay-fever/contents/allergic-rhinitis [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].
  2. The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. (n.d.). Hay fever. [online] Available at: https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Hay_fever/ [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].
  3. (n.d.). Common cold. [online] Available at: https://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Common-cold [Accessed 2 Mar. 2020].
  4. Ghildyal, R. and Mathew, C. (2018). Health Check: how to tell the difference between hay fever and the common cold. [online] The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/health-check-how-to-tell-the-difference-between-hay-fever-and-the-common-cold-104755 [Accessed 3 Mar. 2020].
  5. Loke, P. (2019). How do you know if your child has hay fever and how should you treat it?. [online] The Conversation. Available at: https://theconversation.com/how-do-you-know-if-your-child-has-hay-fever-and-how-should-you-treat-it-122853 [Accessed 3 Mar. 2020].
  6. Sniderman, A. (2018). How to Help Your Baby or Toddler Clear a Stuffy Nose. [online] Health Essentials. Available at: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-help-your-baby-or-toddler-clear-a-stuffy-nose/ [Accessed 3 Mar. 2020].
  7. Stanford Children’s Health. (n.d.). Help for a Child with a Cold. [online] Available at: https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=help-for-a-child-with-a-cold-1-2432 [Accessed 3 Mar. 2020].
  8. Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). (2012). Cough and cold medicines for children – changes. [online] Available at: https://www.tga.gov.au/behind-news/cough-and-cold-medicines-children-changes [Accessed 3 Mar. 2020].

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