Site Map

Stuffy or runny nose - children

Nose - congested; Congested nose; Runny nose; Postnasal drip; Rhinorrhea

A stuffy or congested nose occurs when the tissues lining the nose become swollen. The swelling is due to inflamed blood vessels.

The problem may also include nasal discharge or "runny nose." If excess mucus runs down the back of your throat (postnasal drip), it may cause a cough or sore throat.

Images

Throat anatomy

Considerations

Most of the time, nasal congestion in older children and adolescents is not serious by itself, but can cause other problems.

When nasal stuffiness is just on one side, the child may have inserted something into the nose.

Nasal congestion can interfere with the ears, hearing, and speech development. Congestion that is very bad may interfere with sleep.

The mucous drainage may plug up the eustachian tube between the nose and the ear, causing an ear infection and pain. The mucous drip may also plug the sinus passages, causing sinus infection and pain.

Causes

A stuffy or runny nose may be caused by:

The congestion typically goes away by itself within a week.

Congestion also can be caused by:

Home Care

Tips to help infants and younger children include:

A nasal wash can help remove mucus from your child's nose.

If your child has allergies:

Nasal sprays are not recommended for children under age 2. Don't use over-the-counter nasal sprays more often than 3 days on and 3 days off, unless told to by your provider.

You can buy cough and cold medicines without a prescription. They do not seem to be effective in children.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call the provider if your child has any of the following:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your child's provider may perform a physical exam that focuses on the ears, nose, throat, and airways.

Tests that may be done include:

Related Information

Otitis
Sinusitis
H1N1 influenza (Swine flu)
Flu
Common cold
Colds and the flu - what to ask your doctor - adult
Colds and the flu - what to ask your doctor - child
When your baby or infant has a fever

References

Lopez SMC, Williams JV. Rhinoviruses. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier;2020:chap 290.

McGann KA, Long SS. Respiratory tract symptom complexes. In: Long SS, Prober CG, Fischer M, eds. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 21.

Milgrom H, Sicherer SH. Allergic rhinitis. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier;2020:chap 168.

BACK TO TOP

Review Date: 7/11/2019  

Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

ADAM Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, for Health Content Provider (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2021 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.