If your tissue supply can't keep up with your child's runny nose, you're probably eager for solutions. While most causes of nose-running can't be fixed in a snap, learning more about some of the biggies can get you on the path to making your child more comfortable and potentially minimizing that annoying drip. For severe or long-lasting symptoms, consult your doctor.
Upper-respiratory infections, particularly colds, sinus infections and the flu, are leading causes of kids' sniffling. It can be tricky to tell the difference between a cold and the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but colds are more likely to cause a runny or stuffy nose. Other cold symptoms tend to be milder than flu symptoms, which may include body aches, fever, fatigue and coughing. In general, cold and flu congestion clears up within a week. If cold symptoms linger on longer than 10 to 14 days, however, it may be a sinus infection. In this case, the drips from your child’s nose may appear green or yellow.
Allergic rhinitis — a.k.a., hay fever — is the most common condition caused by allergies in kids. It can trigger an itchy, runny nose, sneezing, clogged nostrils and postnasal drip, which involves mucus running down the throat. These symptoms derive from an immune system response from exposure to an allergen. Common culprits include pollen, insect bites, animal hair, fumes from smoke, cards or perfume. To determine any allergies, seek testing from your doctor.
If your child has a runny nose without other cold- or flu- like symptoms, such as a cough or fever, a tiny piece of a toy or jewelry may be to blame. A foreign object stuck in the nostril is a common cause of nose obstruction in young kids, according to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan. When a small item, such as a bead or eraser head, gets lodged in a nostril, it can cause bad-smelling drainage. You may be able to remove the object by gently closing the opposite nostril and having your child exhale out through the other. Otherwise, it can likely be removed during a physician visit. If it's unclear whether something is lodged in the nose, a scan such as an X-ray or MRI may be conducted.
While the specific steps may vary, depending on the cause of your child’s runny nose, there’s a lot you can do to bring comfort.
- Prop your child’s head up during sleep. To keep your child’s symptoms from worsening at night and to make restful sleep easier, raise your child’s bed by placing boards under the legs of the head of the bed, or a pillow under the head of the mattress.
- Consider OTC medication. If your child is age 4 or older and has a cold, Children’s Mucinex® Multi-Symptom Cold can help manage symptoms.
- Avoid allergens. If your child has allergies, do your best to avoid allergens. Keep a list handy to share with teachers and friends' parents as well, so they can take precautions, too.
- Provide steam. Warm mist from a steamy bath or shower can help ease congestion and make way for easier breathing. Allow your child to sit in a steamy bathroom before bed to invite more comfortable sleep.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Stuffy or Runny Rose - Children
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Cold Versus Flu
- American Academy of Otolaryngology: Pediatric Sinusitis
- American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: Children and Allergies
- Children’s Hospital of Michigan: Nasal Obstruction
- Mucinex: Children’s Mucinex® Multi-Symptom Cold
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: Foreign Body in the Nose