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Ask Dr. Sears: Little Noisemakers

[BOLD {Q. My baby's such a noisy breather. Could he have a respiratory problem?}]

[BOLD {A.}] Probably not. In the first few months, many babies often make a racket, usually because of air passing through the excess saliva that puddles in the back of their throat. Congestion can be responsible too --infants can't clear their nasal passages yet. When a baby's airways and the swallowing mechanism mature to keep up with his saliva production (typically at 6 months of age), these normal sounds will subside.

Sometimes, though, noisy breathing is a clue that a baby's air pathways are partially clogged with secretions, often because of an irritation by dust, feathers, or animal dander. If you notice he's particularly stuffy and breathes loudly in the morning, his bedroom may need to be cleaned and defuzzed (wash bedding and remove dust-collecting toys and animals). You can also put a few drops of saltwater nasal solution in his nose to help clear it out. And though this is rare, loud breathing can be caused by incompletely developed cartilage around the airways (a condition called laryngomalacia, which babies usually outgrow).

Generally, noisy breathing is not serious, but it may be if it's accompanied by:

[BULLET] A fever, other signs of illness, or major changes in sleep patterns.

[BULLET] Coughing or wheezing (a whistling sound during breathing), both of which are signs of croup --though infants under 6 months aren't usually at risk for this.

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