Are there any home remedies for chest congestion in babies?
My baby sounds congested when breathing, what should I do?
How to clear chest congestion in babies and kids?
Looking for a safe congestion relief for toddlers?
Here comes the winter and so follows the common cold, cough, stuffy nose, chest congestion in babies and kids.
Are these winter ailments? Well, these illnesses are common in all seasons but the cold weather combined with an immune system that is yet to mature ends up triggering breathing difficulties in babies and kids.
These illnesses are common in all seasons but cold weather and the immune system that is yet to develop fully will always trigger breathing difficulties in babies and kids.
While the respite from the heat is welcome, the illnesses can make your kid suffer. I love the winter season but hate it when my little one is affected by any of the culprits mentioned above. And a suffering baby means a really worried mother.
In today’s post we will see the causes, symptoms, preventive measures and home remedies for chest congestion in babies, toddlers and kids.
I got to visit India recently, for a get-together with my sisters. Staying far from them, it is a really rare event and I look forward to our get-togethers eagerly. So naturally, I was really excited. But then I found out that it was heavily raining all over Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Oh oh!!! While that really made me excited about the prospect of enjoying the wonderful rains, the mommy in me started panicking!! What if my little one falls ill? I didn’t want the rains to play spoilsport and mess with the health of my little one! I decided to go all out and protect him. So I took all the precautions I knew, to keep my little one illness free.
Unfortunately, despite my extra care and precautions my little one contracted a very bad cold. And along with the cold came a horrid chest congestion. This was making his holidays miserable and I was feeling sorry for my poor boy.
He loves to visit his grandparents and other relatives. But this time around his excitement and energy levels were really down. He was also having trouble at night sleeping due to the congestion.
What is chest congestion?
Our respiratory tract has a lining made of mucous membranes. When this layer is irritated due to an external factor like dust, bacteria, virus etc, it gets inflamed.
Apart from the inflammation, the mucous membrane also produces thick mucous to soothe the irritation and to kick the irritant out.
Usually if it is a small dust particle, the mucous ensures that it goes out by coughing or sneezing.
You know, how you sneeze when there is a lot of dust around? That is the body’s way of kicking out the dust that you have accidentally breathed in. Our body doesn’t like unwelcome guests!
But if the irritant is heavy duty, then the membranes secrete more mucous to get rid of the irritant. Bacteria and viruses are intruders that are tough on the system, leading to inflammation and secretion of extra mucous.
During these difficult times, the coughing and sneezing won’t be able to flush out all the mucous. This leads to it getting accumulated in the chest and you/ your little one ends up with a stuffy chest/ chest congestion.
Causes of chest congestion in babies and kids:
What causes chest congestion in babies and kids? Why does it occur sometimes despite our best efforts?
If I had to answer these questions in a simple way, all I would say is that, they are kids and their bodies have a lot of growing up to do.
Now let us take a look at the common causes for chest congestion in babies and kids.
- Common cold:
This happens to be the most common culprit.
During cold, mucus formed in throat and nose drains to the chest. Buildup of this mucus leads to chest congestion.
Unlike us, small kids do not know how to spit out the phlegm that gets accumulated leading to congestion.
- Low immunity:
As I mentioned before, the immunity levels of babies and toddlers are pretty much immature to fight disease causing germs.
Now you know what happens how our body reacts when a germ gets in. Our body tries its best to flush out the germ and produces a lot of thick mucous.
When babies come in contact with adults or kids who have any diseases of the respiratory tract, the virus can find its way to the babies from them and that will lead to chest congestion.
- Diseases of the respiratory tract:
But it is not just the common cold that causes chest congestion. Diseases of the respiratory tract can also cause chest congestion.
Signs and symptoms of chest congestion in babies and kids:
Heavy noisy breathing and difficulty to sleep are the common symptoms of chest congestion in babies and toddlers. Other symptoms of chest congestion in babies and kids are as follows.
- Difficulty in breathing
Chest congestion leads to troubled breathing. Listen to the way he/ she breathes. If you feel that the way he is breathing doesn’t sound normal or he has labored breathing, then it could be due to congestion.
- Coughing with phlegm
Cold also brings with it, his friend the cough. If your child has started coughing and it is not dry, then that his body’s way of trying to get the mucous out.
- Low or mild fever
As I mentioned before, inhalation of disease causing bacteria or virus can lead to chest congestion. So watch out for low or mild fever as his/ her little body would be fighting really hard to fight the germs. So it is not unusual for a mild fever to accompany chest congestion.
Crankiness is a byproduct of all the symptoms mentioned above. He/ she may to be able to play and enjoy as they usually do, this makes them cranky as they do not know why they feel so.
An infection can also bring the energy levels down drastically.
- Fussy towards food
During a cold, they might be particularly fussy towards food.
- Difficulty in sleeping
Difficulty in breathing and a stuffy nose can meddle with their sleep as well. Lack of sleep is also a factor that can lead to crankiness.
We can’t fully stop a baby from getting cold, cough or chest congestion. But we can follow some preventive measures which are easy to follow during those times.
Preventive measures for chest congestion in babies and kids:
- Practice and teach good hygiene, cough etiquette to your kids
Good hygiene should be maintained when your kid is attacked by viral or bacterial illness.
- Cover up
While sneezing or coughing, always cover your mouth to prevent spreading those nasty germs around. It is bad that you are affected, why get others in trouble?
Teach your kids the importance of covering their mouths while coughing or sneezing and why they should make it a practice.
- Try to use paper towels rather than cotton towels while sneezing
This is done as your little ones would leave the used cotton towels around attracting more germs. In order to avoid this you can use paper towels and discard them after each use.
- Discard the used tissue paper in the dust bins
In order for the previous point to work, you should ensure that the used tissues are properly disposed. Leaving them around will lead to more harm than good and will lead to spreading of germs.
- If in case of no tissue or hankie try to sneeze with upper sleeve (into your elbows)
In case of no tissues, isn’t using your hands better? The answer is no, because using the elbows rather than using hands, helps to avoid spreading the microorganism to others.
We use our hands to touch, greet people, eat food and so the elbows are our safest bet if you don’t have tissues or towels at hand.
- Wash hands frequently with sanitizer
In case of any illness, however small they might be, use a sanitizer. This is to avoid further exposure to germs.
The immune system is weakened during any illness and the exposing them to any more can lead to them contracting other illnesses or cause their illness to worsen. So you can minimize that by using a hand sanitizer.
You can read the 5 tricks to keep cold at bay too.
- Boost your meals with disease fighting ingredients
I am not talking about anything exotic or special here. Include a bit extra ginger, garlic, onions and mint leaves than usual in your meals during winter season. All these are beneficial due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
Prevention is better than cure right?
- Soups, soups and more soups
When the kids have chest congestion, the last thing they want is food. But in order to keep their energy up, they need to eat. So rather than giving them the usual fare, try something different. The best thing to have is some yummy soup.
Include some chicken soup in your kid’s diet. They are proven to help fight colds and boost immunity. It is also a comfort food and easy on the kids tummy. Vegetarians, don’t worry, there is something you can try out too. You can prepare mixed vegetable soups that includes carrots and beetroots.
- Stay hydrated
Ensure that your child’s fluid intake is more than usual. Give boiled water, while it is still lukewarm for drinking. You can also give him lots of juices. It is better if the juices are homemade, than store bought. It is healthier and has no preservatives, artificial coloring or taste enhancers.
- Adequate rest
This one goes without saying. To recuperate your child needs to rest. The immune system is already weak and the body uses all the strength to get better.
Lack of rest will only make the healing process slower. Make your kid stay at home to avoid spreading illness to other kids.
You can read stories to him or sing his favorite rhymes so that he is not bored. Also you can play some easy games that don’t involve any running around. He/ she needs to rest and wait for the illness to go away for no exertion.
During my days as research officer at NIMHANS, whenever I caught a common cold, my doctor roommate often used to quote that
Parents, it’s not necessary to go for heavy dose of medication if your child has cold, cough or chest congestion. All these medicines like antihistamines, decongestants, cough syrups will only provide temporary or symptomatic relief and won’t cure the illness.
There are quite a lot of home remedies available just with the ingredients available in our own kitchen. Home remedies are highly beneficial than these over the counter medicines. This is because if used correctly then it doesn’t have any side effects as compared to other medicines.
22 Effective home remedies for chest congestion in babies and toddlers:
BABIES BELOW 6 MONTHS:
#1. Steam the room:
Add a vaporizer to your baby’s room. It helps to add the required moisture to the nasal tract of babies which reduces the breathing difficulty associated with chest congestion. It also prevents the mucous from drying and blocking the nose. It also helps to loosen the mucous so that it gets expelled faster.
If you do not have a vaporizer, you can run some hot water and steam your bath room and sit with your baby there for providing relief.
#2. Ajwain and garlic potli:
You can make a potli or pouch of dry roasted garlic and ajwain (carom seeds). Frequent rubbing of this potli on baby’s chest or under feet can help to reduce the congestion levels. Each time you use this pouch just heat it on a tawa.
NOTE: Do NOT keep or rub hot potli over baby’s chest or feet. Babies have delicate skin and hence using a hot potli will cause burns. Before you use the pouch on the child, ensure that you test the temperature of the potli, to avoid burns.
Keep it on your palm or inner wrist, if it feels too hot, wait for it to cool down a bit. If you can’t feel any warmth at all, then heat it up again. It is just like testing the temperature of the bath water.
#3. Frequent nursing:
Breast milk is the best solution to all the ailments of your little one. If your baby is below 6 months, then avoid using any over the counter drugs and stick to home remedies that involve external application. If you still feel that he or she needs medicine, remember that you have the medicine to offer- breast milk.
Frequent breastfeeding helps to prevent the solidification of mucus inside baby’s nose and chest. It also addresses the hydration needs of your little one and provides him/her with the anti-bodies to fight the germs and get well soon.
#4. Raise the head of your baby while sleeping:
Always make it a point to elevate the baby’s head while sleeping and breastfeeding. Maintaining this angle helps to drain out the mucus from nose and chest relieving baby from congestion. Raising head of the baby can be done by using pillows or slings.
You can also allow the baby to sleep sideways to ease breathing. Some babies like to sleep on their tummies, it is better to avoid this position when he or she has a cold.
#5. Massage with mustard oil infused with ajwain and garlic.
This oil can be made by heating about ¼ cup of mustard oil and adding slightly crushed and chopped garlic cloves and ajwain or carom seeds to it.
You can use one or two garlic cloves and a pinch of ajwain. Wait for the garlic and ajwain to turn brown and remove it from the heat. Don’t let it burn. Use this to massage the chest and soles of the feet of your baby. Make him/her wear socks. This will help with the congestion.
Note: Ensure that the oil is not too hot while applying on the baby’s body.
#6. Bay leaf chest compress
Bay leaf is no stranger to us as we use it to flavor our dishes. But apart from that it can also help to relieve chest congestion.
Take 3-4 bay leaves. Add it to water and boil. Now you can remove the leaves. Take a clean cloth and dip it in the water. Wring the cloth and check if the heat is bearable and place it on your child’s chest.
#7. Tap the back
Here, you have to place your baby on your lap with the baby’s head facing down. Support the neck with one hand. With the other hand, gently tap the baby’s back. Cup your hand while you do the tapping. This method will help to loosen the phlegm.
BABIES ABOVE 6 MONTHS:
Points 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 can be followed for babies of 6 month and above too.
In addition to these, you can also use the following home remedies to counter chest congestion.
Soups are excellent to help reduce chest congestion. It is also easy on the tummy and easy to feed. It ensures that your little one’s energy levels don’t drop and also provides nutrients that are required for bouncing back. As mentioned above chicken soup is known to soothe the baby during chest congestion.
Chicken soup can be started from 8th month onwards. You can also give your baby mixed vegetable soups. You can also read the 7 healthy soups for babies and kids.
#9. Don’t forget the extra fluids:
Apart from breast milk and soup, make sure the baby is well hydrated with the inclusion of various fluids. Boiled water with carom seeds or ajwain can also help to soothe the baby.
If you want to know if your little one is having enough water, do read whether the water intake of your baby is enough or not.
#10. Vicks vaporub:
This is something that a lot of moms use. Simply rub some Vicks vaporub for babies on soles of their feet and make them wear socks during night time. This helps to bring down the chest congestion. It also helps babies who are suffering from cough.
Do not let him/ her walk around as the Vicks on the feet can be make it a bit tricky to walk.
TODDLERS ABOVE 1 YEAR:
#11. Turmeric milk or haldi doodh:
Turmeric is known for its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. Warm milk with turmeric is an effective home remedy for chest congestion in toddlers and kids. This is probably why this has been a commonly used remedy.
Boil a cup of milk and add a pinch of turmeric powder/ a piece of turmeric in it. If your toddler doesn’t like the taste, you can add jaggery and salt / sugar according to his taste.
#12. Garlic milk:
Yes, it sounds a bit yuck, but garlic milk works wonders for chest congestion in toddlers and kids. To make this boil one or two cloves of garlic boiled with one glass of milk and a pinch of turmeric powder. After the milk has boiled, add sugar.
You can also add honey instead of sugar. Kids aren’t big fans of this, but if you can get him/ her to drink this, then you can rest assured that the chest congestion is on its way out.
#13. Tulsi juice with honey:
Crush a few tulsi leaves to get the juice. Add 1 tablespoon of honey to it and store this in a clean container.
Make your toddler have this juice at regular intervals as it helps to expel the phlegm from the chest. Tulsi has disease fighting qualities which makes it an effective remedy against chest congestion.
Note: Make sure you prepare a fresh batch of this juice every day and discard the leftover juice.
#14. Ginger juice with honey:
Grate ginger and add 1 tablespoon of honey to it. Store in a container and make your toddler have this at regular intervals throughout the day.
You can also blend ginger with water and then add honey to it.
Take a cup of hot water and add a slice of lemon and some lemon zest. Wait for five minutes so that the lemon essence gets infused into the water. Strain and offer it to your kid. You can also add some honey to sweeten it. Offer it to your child while it is still warm.
You can also make some lemonade sweetened with honey. This remedy works as it kills the germs causing the irritation. It helps to soothe the throat and chest as well.
#16. Onion infused honey
Surprised to see this one on the list? When used along with honey it makes for an effective remedy against chest congestion.
Put a slice or two of onion in some honey and leave it overnight. Remove the onion and give a teaspoon of this honey to your child twice a day.
#17. Onion juice
Grind an onion and extract the juice. Feed this to your child who is suffering from chest congestion. If he/she finds the taste unpleasant, you can add a bit of honey.
OLDER KIDS ABOVE 3 YEARS:
All the steps till 10 can be followed for older kids. In addition to these, you can use these remedies for kids above 3 years.
This is a remedy that is likely to be accepted by your child without any protest. Eating dates followed by drinking some lukewarm water has also been found beneficial for chest congestion in toddlers.
#19. Hot betel plant leaves:
This is a very old but effective home remedy used by my ayyamma (grandma).
Hot betel leaves (vettilai) soaked in castor oil or mustard oil placed on child’s chest followed by hot compress (cloth soaked in hot water) helps to loosen the phlegm and mucus in chest.
#20. Salt water gargling
You can ask older kids to gargle with some lukewarm water and salt. This helps to loosen the mucus and that helps to get it out of the system. You can also add a pinch of turmeric to this water.
#21. Pepper, cumin and rock sugar
Take some pepper, cumin and rock sugar. Powder these well and store it in an air tight container. A pinch of this every now and then will help to bring down chest congestion. This is also effective against severe cough.
Ask your child to chew a few fennel seeds to get rid of congestion. This has to be done a few times throughout the day.
Does your child require a trip to the doctor?
- If your baby has severe breathing problems due to congestion and is extremely cranky, you might want to take him to the pediatrician. He might prescribe medicines or antibiotics if there is a bacterial interference or a severe viral attack.
- Mostly pediatricians suggest for 1-2 doses of nebulization which helps to clear off the chest from phlegm immediately.
- Place your ears over your baby’s chest or back. If you hear a rattling sound along with breathing, it might be the signs of wheezing. Take your baby to a pediatrician immediately.
- This is only about the home remedies for chest congestion in babies and kids caused during common cold. There are many other causes of chest congestion where medical diagnosis is mandatory. So always check with your pediatrician before trying anything new with your baby or kid.
- Honey should not be given if your baby is less than one year.
- Chest congestion makes breathing difficult, so for small kids avoid using blankets that can be pulled over the face.
- Ensure the toys of the child are cleaned regularly as dusty toys can be a contributing factor to chest congestion.
On an ending note, it’s always good for your child to come down with a cold, cough or chest congestion once in a while. No, I am not being a cruel mom, it is so that they develop antibodies against those foreign bodies thus building up a strong immune system.
Well these are some of the home remedies for chest congestion in babies, toddlers and kids I know of. Please feel free to share the home remedies that you use and comes handy to treat your little one’s chest congestion.