This is a parent’s guide to accompany our book “Running of the Noses.”
Meet our expert: Dr. Krupa Playforth, also known as The Pediatrician Mom, is a board-certified pediatrician practicing in Virginia. She offers some tips and tricks for helping your kid when they have a cold, like Nicco did in the book “Running of the Noses.”
Why do noses run?
Noses run because the nasal cavity is creating excess mucus, which is usually a response to a trigger and inflammation. Triggers can include infections, irritants, allergens and even sometimes temperature changes.
As annoying as it is, the mucus acts as a protective barrier. When an irritant enters the nasal cavity, the mucus that is made traps the irritant and helps your body remove them (via nasal drainage, or swallowing).
What to look out for?
In general, mucus is nothing to worry about unless it is persistent, excessive or interfering with comfort. It usually goes away on its own. It is a common misconception that the color of the mucus will tell you what the cause is – this is not necessarily the case. Green or yellow mucus contains more white blood cells which give it that color.
If the runny nose persists for longer than 10-14 days or is associated with other symptoms (like a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, poor feeding, or dehydration) then it may be worth touching base with your child’s healthcare provider. If you notice the nasal drainage is coming from just one side, then this is also a reason to reach out to your physician, because in children this can be an indication of a foreign body.
What to do when the noses run?
In general, your goal is to try to keep your child comfortable. Because mucus is thick and sticky, it can block the nose and interfere with breathing. So, thinning out the mucus using saline drops or spray can be very helpful, and in younger children who cannot blow their nose, suction with a bulb or Nose Frida can be very helpful. Focus on doing this at times when the runny nose or congestion are interfering with comfort (such as before bed or before feeds).
Other things that may help your child include inhaling humidified air (for example, from a steamy bathroom or a cool mist humidifier) and keeping your child hydrated and resting. For children over the age of 1, there is data to support the use of honey as well. For runny noses caused by allergies, oral antihistamines or nasal sprays can be helpful (always discuss with your pediatrician before giving your child any medication).
How to talk to your kid about it
Talk to your child about what is causing their runny nose and how it is actually adaptive; it is a way that the body protects itself. Review the ways your child can help the body do its job: drinking fluids, resting as needed, and blowing their nose.
It is also helpful to discuss how to protect ourselves and others from getting sick. Teach your child to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (it can be helpful to have them sing “Happy Birthday” twice through, or to pick another verse from a song they like) and model good hand washing behavior. Depending on what is the cause of the runny nose, you may also want to discuss mask-wearing and staying away from others until your child feels better.
Please note that this advice was created for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your qualified healthcare provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition for your child. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.
Dr. Krupa Playforth, also known as The Pediatrician Mom, is a board-certified pediatrician practicing in Virginia and a Piper+Enza contributor. Check her out on Instagram for practical tips related to children’s health and wellness.