How to Clean Out Mucus From a Baby's Lungs

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Mucus in a baby's lungs can be alarming because of the sound it creates, but it's accompanying symptoms that may cause greater concern. Find out how to gently pat a baby's back to loosen up mucus with help from a pediatrician in this free video on babies and health care.

Part of the Video Series: Baby Ear, Nose & Throat Health
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Doctor David Hill and today we're going to be talking about how to clean out mucus from a baby's lungs. Now, What you're going to hear when your baby gets sick, usually with a cold but sometimes with an infection or even a pneumonia, is sort of a rattly sound in the chest. And that's going to drive you crazy, because some babies can't cough enough to get all that stuff up, and they cough, and sputter for a second, it comes back. And you think I gotta do something about this.Well, first of all you probably don't really need to do anything about it, as long as your baby is eating well, sleeping well, and not short of breath. That said, let's review some signs of shortness of breath, because changes everything. First of all, if your infant is breathing too fast, faster than he or she usually seems to breath, that also worries us. As they get up over about 60 breaths per minute, they're going to have a very hard time staying hydrated and nourished. Likewise, if you see that your baby's skin, under the chest, between ribs or over the ribcage is pulling in with every breath, that's a very alarming sign. Also, if your baby's using abdominal muscles that look like they're doing a little core exercise every time they breathe, that's not good either. If your baby's making a little grunting sound, an eh..eh..eh.. that's a sign of respiratory distress, or if the nose is flaring with every breath, that's also very alarming. If you've seen any of those things going on, for gosh sake, take your baby to see a doctor. He or she may need to be hospitalized, they may need a breathing treatment, they may need antibiotics. So, see what's going on and see what needs to happen. Now, let's say this is a run of the mill cold. Your baby's just got that gurgly sound at the back of the throat, they've got a stuffy nose, but they're breathing fine, and they don't have a prolonged fever or anything; well in that case, you can certainly turn your baby over on his tummy and gently pat his back, with a little cupped hand. That'll loosen up the mucus and help him or her mobilize it. Now, I got a lot of parents who say, they won't spit the mucus out, they'll swallow it. That's okay. We're actually swallowing mucus all day long, without realizing it. That's how we clean out the lungs and the airways anyway, is to get that mucus into the gastric, into the stomach where acid, gastric acid destroys whatever germs are in there. So, that's okay. Don't worry about that part. But, that are.. those are some ways you can deal with mucus in your infant's lungs and some things to look out for when your infant's lungs are full of mucus, that would be really alarming if they occur. Talking about how to get mucus out of your infant's lungs, I'm Doctor David Hill.

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