Runny Nose and Sticky Eyes

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Runny Nose and Sticky Eyes
Babies often have blocked nasal passages and most parents would like to clear them without resorting to drugs - so how do I treat a baby's cold?

Sometimes babies' noses can be so blocked that it's difficult for them to suck properly. Babies get coughs and colds just like adults do. There's no problem if he can take his feed adequately and settle to sleep, and no more chance of the infection progressing to anything more serious than there is for an adult.

If the baby's nose is so blocked he can't suck properly, you could always try squirting some breast milk up his nostrils as enzymes naturally present in the milk are good at breaking down the stickiness of mucous. Saline nose drops 15 minutes before a feed can help a little. If things are really bad your GP can prescribe some decongestant nose drops to use in a similar way.

Your baby's breathing passages can also be cleared by using a vaporiser in the room. This is particularly good at bedtime! Steam in the room (wet towel over the radiator, humidifier) will also help to clear airways. Remember, breast milk gives babies some of the mother's antibodies and so passes on some protection against infections.

In addition to a runny nose, about 25% of new babies have a persistently watery eye from birth, with or without a discharge. As long as the eye itself is not inflamed, this is almost certainly due to poor drainage of normal eye secretions from the eye. This happens when the channel from the eye to the nose is blocked by a membrane. You can often see the opening - a pinprick hole in the inside corner of the lower lid, near the lashes. But, in the first few weeks of life this may not be fully open.

Gently massaging the duct from the inside of the lower lid to the outside rim may help. Also, camomile tea solution is a natural antiseptic and is useful for bathing eyes. Brew it in the same way you would to drink, but let it cool in the fridge and apply it with cotton wool. This problem resolves usually resolves itself spontaneously in 95% of babies by their first birthday but it may be necessary for some of the others to have a tiny operation by an eye surgeon where the duct can be cleared using an extremely fine surgical probe.

If the eyes themselves are red, you should seek medical help immediately, as conjunctivitis (usually picked up from infection in the mother during birth) can cause serious vision threatening problems in a few cases.

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