Congestion in Children: How to Help Your Kids Breathe Easier

A young boy with a stuffy nose blowing his nose.

Handling adult congestion is tricky, but wrestling with a kiddo's congestion can feel like entering the ring against The Rock. As an adult, congestion can be as easy as knowing it's cold or allergy season, feeling that familiar sniffling, and stopping for a box of tissues and orange juice on the way home from work.

However, that's typically not the case for kids. Younger children may have difficulty expressing that something is wrong or can't express their symptoms properly. Not only that, but they're also more likely to experience symptoms that you may not have when you're congested.

Allergies or breathing difficulties are not uncommon in children. In fact, about 1 in 5 people develop allergies in their lifetimes, and about 1 in 10 will develop asthma. Plus, it's not a matter of "if" but "when" your child will bring the typical cold home from school, daycare, or a friend's house.

So what can you do to help your child while they're congested and give them some relief? What telltale signs of congestion should you be looking for? Do some allergies run in the family?

Let's start from the beginning with one of the leading causes of congestion in children: allergies.

Are Allergy Symptoms Different in Children?

It's important to note that allergies present differently in children than they do in adulthood. That can make it harder to tell when your child is experiencing an allergic reaction. Also, their allergies can be more severe than adult ones. This is because they are more sensitive to allergens than adults, especially if they develop allergies early.

Children are also more likely to experience symptoms like ear infections and respiratory infections with their allergies as well

Environmental irritants cause you and your child's allergy symptoms because of how your immune system reacts. Your immune system overreacts to the irritant, causing those familiar symptoms in its effort to expel the irritants from your body.

Your immune system's overreaction to allergens causes familiar symptoms including:

While children experience many of the same allergy symptoms as adults do, they do experience a few different symptoms, like allergic shiners and the "allergic salute."

Allergic shiners are dark under-eye circles caused by sinus or nasal congestion. Like the name suggests, these dark circles look like black eyes or bruises. Typical allergy symptoms like a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, and sinus pressure generally accompany allergic shiners. They're typically caused when the congestion in your nose congests the veins under your eyes. This causes them to dilate and darken, causing their distinctive appearance.

Also known as a nasal crease, the allergic salute is a line across the bridge of the nose caused by frequently rubbing the nose upwards. An itchy, runny nose is a common side effect of allergies, and you may reflexively rub your nose in response to the itching or your runny nose.

Rubbing your nose too much can quite literally leave a mark. However, that crease disappears once your symptoms subside and you stop rubbing your nose.

Are Allergies Genetic?

Children are more likely to develop allergies if their parents have them. However, they're not guaranteed to inherit allergies if their parents have them.

On top of that, children with allergies may not even develop the same allergies as their parents. That means that if you're allergic to pollen and dust, there's a chance that your kids won't be allergic to the same irritants. [1]

How to Help Your Child While They're Congested

The most effective way to treat nasal congestion in children, whether it's from the common cold or allergies, is to determine the root cause and find a solution from there. There are many natural solutions and home remedies you can use to help treat your child's congestion, whether it's caused by the common cold or allergies.

Here are 5 of our favorite solutions.

1. Use SinuSonic

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends against using cold medicines, antihistamines, decongestants, et cetera in children younger than six. For kids older than six, these medications may provide no benefit to their symptoms. [2]

Instead, it's important to help them clear their sinuses naturally. SinuSonic uses gentle pressure and light acoustic vibration to help move all that thick mucus out of the nose so your child can breathe freely again. Just 2 minutes twice daily can help make that nasal congestion a thing of the past.

It's normal for SinuSonic users to blow their nose while using the device. However, it's also important to blow your nose correctly to clear your sinuses. Remember not to blow too hard or to squeeze your nose too tightly as you blow. This is counterproductive and can cause headaches, ear pain, or send air and mucus into your sinuses and ears.

2. Use a Humidifier

The cool mist from a humidifier can soothe inflamed sinuses and help decongest a stuffy nose. This can help thin the thick mucus inside your child's nose and make it easier to blow out.

A saline solution or saline nose drops can also soothe your child's sinuses and thin out that pesky mucus.

3. Help them Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated during a cold helps your body fight the infection. Staying hydrated for a stuffy nose caused by colds or allergies helps thin the mucus in your child's nasal passages. This also makes it much easier to blow all that mucus away and breathe more freely.

Keeping your kids hydrated is easy; drinking plenty of water is always an option, but water-rich produce like cucumbers, bell peppers, and watermelon can help too. Beverages with electrolytes like Pedialyte are helpful too.

Another good option is chicken soup. Hot food like broth or soup helps relieve a stuffy nose, which can feel like much-needed relief if your child has been congested for days. This is called gustatory rhinitis.

One study has also found that chicken soup is rich in compounds that soothe upper respiratory symptoms, such as the common cold or a sinus infection. [3]

4. Help Your Child Avoid Allergens

If allergies are causing your child's congestion, the best step toward relief is to avoid the offending irritants.

Allergy season can hit people differently at various times of year; your child's allergies may make them miserable while their friend isn't experiencing any symptoms. This is because different allergens are most numerous at different times of year. For example, during months that weed pollen is running amok, tree, and grass pollen are at a minimum.

Or, if the allergen is something inside the home like dust or pet dander, there are steps you can take to allergy-proof your home and keep those irritants under control.

Knowing what exactly is causing your child's symptoms can go a long way in giving them (and you) some much-needed relief!

5. Elevate their Head for Better Sleep

Sleeping with a stuffy nose is tricky at any age. Getting plenty of rest is vital for overcoming the common cold or bouncing back after bad allergies, but it's not easy if your child can't breathe through their nose.

Keeping their head elevated while they sleep decreases blood flow to their nose and lets gravity do all the work in decongesting their sinuses.

You can just stack a few pillows to get the proper elevation, but be careful not to overdo it. For best results, your child's head should be above their heart, but not to the extent that it causes neck pain.

Don't Kid Around with Nasal Congestion

Nasal congestion is frustrating enough as an adult, but it's an entirely different beast for kids. Nasal congestion in children is often accompanied by more persistent symptoms and symptoms you may not experience in adulthood.

Thankfully, just like with your congestion, there are plenty of ways to treat your child's congestion and help them get back to being a kid again.

Feeling congested? SinuSonic makes treating it as easy as child’s play!

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  1. “Kids and Allergies (for Parents).” Edited by Larissa Hirsch, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, Jan. 2022, 
  2. Pappas, Dianne E. “Patient Education: The Common Cold in Children (Beyond the Basics).” Edited by Morven S Edwards and Diane Blake, UpToDate, 7 Mar. 2022, 
  3. “New Study Supports Chicken Soup as a Cold Remedy.” ScienceDaily, 19 Oct. 2000,