An excess amount of phlegm or mucus in a baby's throat can lead to choking, gagging, coughing and frequent swallowing. Mucus in the throat is a common side effect of various infections including the common cold or flu. If phlegm is persistent or blocks an infant's airway consult a health care professional immediately.
No over-the-counter anti-histamine, cough suppressant, expectorant or decongestant is approved for the use in children under the age of 4. These products can be very harmful to a baby and may worsen symptoms if taken.
Bulb Syringe and Saline
Baby saline spray or drops can help thin mucus that is draining down the nasal passages into the throat. To administer, place the baby on her back and put the tip of the saline spray bottle just inside one nostril. It is best to squeeze one or two drops into a baby's nose instead of a spray of mist. This can be done by slowly squeezing the bottle only slightly instead of a quick and hard squeeze to create mist. Repeat the process on the other nostril and allow baby to rest a few seconds. Use a rubber bulb syringe to suction out the nasal passages. This can be done by inserting the syringe a short distance into the nose while the bulb is depressed and then quickly releasing the bulb. Use caution when inserting the tip of the syringe; it only needs to go in 1/4 of an inch or less. Ask a health care professional about suctioning a baby's throat to remove mucus. With instruction and practice this can be an effective and safe way to remove mucus. Rinse the syringe with hot soapy water and allow to dry between uses. Between infections or when the syringe is used on more than one child rinse the syringe out with rubbing alcohol or vinegar to kill off germs. Follow the solution with a quick rinse of warm water.
Moisture in the air can make it easier for a baby to cough up the mucus or cope with the drainage. A cool or warm mist humidifier can be placed in the room with a baby to provide more moisture to the air. A cool mist humidifier is often preferred for babies due to the risk of burns with a warm mist humidifier. Depending on the other symptoms of the illness causing the phlegm, cold or warm mist may be more effective in thinning the drainage. A dry, hacking cough can be improved with warm mist whereas a wet cough with lots of mucus can be improved with cold mist. Other alternatives for creating moisture include boiling a pan of water on the stove for several hours or holding baby in a closed bathroom while a hot shower is running.
Various essential oils can be used to thin mucus and make breathing easier. These should not be ingested by a baby unless specific instructions are given by a health care professional or qualified herbalist. Placing eucalyptus, peppermint or spearmint oils into a humidifier, running shower or boiling pan of water can create soothing vapors the baby can inhale to improve congestion.
Continue feeding the baby his regular formula or breast milk during any illness to keep him hydrated. Elevating the baby's crib can help with drainage and breathing. To do this place a pillow under the babies mattress or prop up one end of the crib with two wide books or pieces of wood. Never put something under the baby to elevate him. Seek medical attention for prolonged congestion or mucus that blocks airways.