Q: My toddler has a stuffy nose that won't go away, and she sometimes vomits first thing in the morning. I thought it was a virus, but could it be allergies?
A: While a cold may be causing your child's stuffy nose, if symptoms go on for more than five to seven days, allergies often are the culprit. When an allergy causes congestion and a runny nose, some of the mucus drips to the back of the throat (it's called postnasal drip). Young children who can't spit up the mucus may swallow it and end up vomiting up the mucus, since it's irritating to the stomach. That sounds like what might be happening to your daughter. Talk to your pediatrician or a pediatric allergist, who will take a case history of her symptoms to look for the cause of the allergy. It may be something in her environment, such as dust. You can cleanse your child's nose by moistening her nasal passages with saline drops, then suction out the mucus using a nasal aspirator. Keeping a vaporizer or humidifier in her bedroom will also help to keep her nose moist and will make the mucus easier to dislodge. Your doctor may also suggest an antihistamine such as Claritin or Zyrtec, which can help cut down on the allergic symptoms.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, April 2004. Updated 2009