Expert Advice -- Constant Runny Nose

My two year old always seems to have a stuffed up or runny nose. The pediatrician always prescribes the same medication, and it seems to help at the time, but a week later we are back to square one. She always seems to be sick. What can cause this condition?


Robert Steele

Robert W. Steele, MD, is a board certified pediatrician at St. John's Regional Health Center in Springfield, MO. He graduated from medical... Read more

There are a number of things that can give a toddler a constant runny nose.

Viral illnesses. This is the most common reason for a constant runny nose in a child. The average number of upper respiratory viral illnesses that a young child gets each year is 6 to 10; even more if the child attends day care. The symptoms can last up to four weeks. Since there are so many viral illnesses that occur each year, as the symptoms from one cold begin to go away, here comes another. Viral illnesses do not respond to antibiotics, so you are left with treating the symptoms and waiting for them to go away on their own.

Sinus infection. Another possibility is a sinus infection. Sinus infections are often over-diagnosed in children. But, when a child has had persistent greenish or yellowish discharge from the nose for more than two weeks, a sinus infection is a possibility. Green and yellow nasal discharge is normal during the first week of a upper respiratory viral illness, but this clears after about a week. Sinus infections often require antibiotics.

Allergies. Allergies are also a possibility. If this is the case, an antihistamine can often alleviate the symptoms.

Your doctor should do a complete physicial examination to rule out any treatable causes.

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