Dr David Lowinger MBBS FRACS Ear Nose & Throat Specialist Surgeon
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Blocked Nose

Blocked nose can also be referred to stuffy nose or nasal congestion which is common condition in children. Nasal congestion occurs when the tissues lining the nose becomes swollen due to the inflamed blood vessels.

In newborns, nasal congestion is a common condition and rarely may cause serious health problems. In older children, the nasal passages are very tiny and get blocked easily making breathing difficult. If nasal congestion is not treated it can lead to problems in ears, may interfere in hearing, and speech development. It may also cause sleep apnoea and snoring problems in children.

Your doctor will diagnose the condition based on  physical examination, and diagnostic tests such as allergic skin tests (to check if your child is allergic to any allergens), blood test, sputum culture test (to check for bacterial or viral infection), and X-ray of the sinuses and chest.

Causes of blocked nose are

  • Infection - Viral infections commonly occur in children because of poor resistance against these germs, and one of the conditions is common cold. These viruses are transmitted by air which causes the nasal membranes to swell up causing congestion. If the nasal mucous turns yellow or green, it is a clear indication of bacterial infection

    Sinus infection also causes nasal blockage. If the nasal sinuses are inflamed it leads to a condition called as sinusitis that causes inflammation of sinuses in and around the nasal region.
  • Polyps (fleshy growths in nose) or tumors in nose - Due to infection of the nasal sinuses, polyps develop in the nose which further causes asthma and chronic cough

  • Structural abnormalities - Deformities of the nose and nasal septum (cartilage that divides the nasal cavity into two nostrils) can also lead to nasal congestion. These deformities occur due to injury in childhood which will lead to obstruction while breathing

    Enlarged adenoid glands are one of the common causes of nasal congestion. Adenoid glands are small tissue located at the back of the nose.
  • Allergies - Allergy occurs as a result of inflammatory response to allergens such as pollen, dust mites, house dust, and animal dander, tobacco smoke. The inflammation is mediated by a substance called histamine that may cause congestion. Dust mites are a type of allergen, microscopic insects that live in dust under humid conditions. They are commonly found under furniture, bed, and carpets

  • Vasomotor rhinitis - Rhinitis is the condition that causes inflammation of the nasal membranes and vasomotor nerves are the nerves that control the blood vessels. Membranes of the nose have the ability to expand and contract. During the allergic response these membranes expand leading to nasal congestion. Some of the factors that expand these membranes are irritants such as perfume, tobacco smoke, and psychological stress


The main goal of treatment is to help your child breathe easy and sleep without disturbance.

  • Identify the indoor and outdoor allergens or irritants which cause the problems and worsen the condition and subsequently remove them
  • To treat allergic rhinitis - Wash bed sheets with warm water, remove toys and carpets from your child's room, and cover the bed sheets and pillows with dust mite protection covers that will maintain the humidity at 40%
  • Anti –histamines and decongestants may be prescribed to prevent the allergic response and improve congestion.
  • Surgery may be recommended to remove the enlarged adenoid gland as it may cause dental problems, saggy face, mouth breathing, snoring.
  • Decongestants are suggested which will shrink the blood vessels that are swollen. It helps to relieve stuffiness. It should not be used for more than 3 days as it may make the congestion worse
  • Adhesive nasal strips are available which can be placed over the nose. These will help in widening the nostrils and makes breathing easy


  • Avoid smoking in the house and car as it may trigger allergy in your child.
  • Avoid contact with pets that cause allergic reaction
  • Increase the humidity in air by using vaporizing or humidifier. Avoid putting too much of moisture in room. Clean vaporizer every day
  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids.
  • Use gentle and saline nasal sprays. Nasal sprays are not recommended for children below 2 years
  • Steam bath works best for your child as it helps to open the blocked mucous in the nose
  • Use of perfumes should be avoided as they may cause allergic reaction
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Royal Australasian College of Surgeons The Australian Society Of Otolaryngology Head And Neck Surgery Australian New Zealand Society of Paediatric Otorhinolaryngology (ANZSPO) The University of New South Wales The University of Sydney Harvard Medical School

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