Newborn sneezing

Is your newborn sneezing a little or a lot? It turns out that for infants, sneezing is normal and expected behavior. Those adorable achoos are just some of the many noises and reflexes you're likely to observe in the newborn stage. But if your newborn is sneezing and coughing, appears congested, or has a fever, these could be signs of a respiratory illness. Read on to learn more about newborn baby sneezing and when to contact your healthcare provider.

Why Do Newborns Sneeze?

If you're asking yourself “why does my newborn sneeze so much?” you’re not alone. This common baby behavior is one that often prompts questions or even worries from parents, who wonder if their baby is sick and if they should call the healthcare provider. All these thoughts can race through your mind, but rest assured that it is normal for newborns to sneeze—even repeatedly or a lot.

Common Newborn Sounds and Sneezing

From the moment your newborn arrives, you’ll be treated to a lot of noises and reactions coming from their mouth and nose, including sneezing and hiccups. Even in your baby’s first few days, you may hear

  • cries

  • grunts

  • burps

  • coughs

  • yawns

  • gurgles

  • squeaks

  • sighs

  • hiccups

  • sneezes.

Not only are these common and nothing to worry about, they’re also good signs that your baby's senses are functioning. Your little one is reacting to what's going on in their new big world, which can be a little challenging for someone so small. And a newborn's tiny nasal passages can easily become blocked or irritated, prompting some grunting and sneezing from time to time.

Infant Reflexes

Babies are born with a number of reflexes. A reflex is simply an automatic muscle reaction that occurs in response to stimulation. For example, a baby will immediately start sucking when something touches their mouth. Other examples of infant reflexes include grasping, stepping, and reflexive smiling. Most of these normal responses will disappear as a baby becomes older. Sneezing, however, is a protective reflex that doesn't disappear over time—it helps the body get rid of things that are irritating or harmful. By sneezing, newborns (as well as older babies, children, and adults) can eject any germs and particles in the nose and protect themselves from illness. A good baby sneeze can help clear out common irritants like dust, fuzz, strong odors, and tobacco smoke, as well as allergens like pet dander and dust mites. All in all, newborn sneezing (along with burps, coughs, cries, gurgles, yawns, hiccups, and other sounds) is common and usually normal. If you have any questions or concerns, however, consult your healthcare provider.

Newborn Sneezing and Common Illnesses

Sometimes, if your newborn is sneezing a lot, it could be a sign of a common respiratory illness, but only when accompanied by other symptoms. Remember that it’s completely normal for newborns to sneeze, so there’s no need to worry right away. But if you notice other symptoms, it’s possible your little one has a common cold, the flu, or nasal allergies.

Newborn Sneezing and the Common Cold

Baby immune systems take time to mature, so in the first year of life your newborn is more susceptible to common colds. In fact, it’s typical for babies to experience six to eight colds before turning 1 year old! It's possible that a newborn with a runny or a stuffy nose, sneezing, or any of the following symptoms could have a cold:

Symptoms of a Common Cold in Newborns

  • Runny nose (clear, yellow, or green mucus)

  • Congestion

  • Sneezing

  • Fever

  • Coughing

  • Difficulty sleepingDifficult

  • y nursing

  • Irritability

If your baby is 3 months old or younger, contact their healthcare provider at the first sign of illness, especially if fever is present, as colds may quickly turn into something more serious. If your older baby has some of these symptoms but doesn't have a high fever, you may not need to call the provider unless the symptoms worsen or don’t improve after a couple of weeks.

Newborn Sneezing and the Flu

It can be a challenge to avoid the seasonal flu with your newborn. This respiratory illness can cause some sneezing, although not typically as much as the common cold. The flu tends to feel worse than a cold, but healthy babies, children, and adults may start to feel better after just one or two weeks.

Typical Symptoms of the Flu

  • A sudden fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit

  • Chills and shakes

  • Headache and body aches

  • Fatigue

  • Sore throat

  • Dry cough

  • Stuffy or runny nose

Other Potential Symptoms of the Flu in Newborns

If your newborn is sneezing a lot, it’s probably not the flu, as sneezing isn’t a telltale sign. But if your little one has a high fever, it’s best to contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible. This is especially important for babies under 3 months, as the immune system is still maturing, or if your newborn has any chronic conditions.

Newborn Sneezing and Allergies

Just like adults, newborns are susceptible to nasal allergies, also known as hay fever, which can cause sneezing and other symptoms. These allergies are a response to allergens in the environment, which may include pollen, dust mites, mold, and dander from pets.

Typical Symptoms of Nasal Allergies and Hay Fever in Newborns

  • Sneezing

  • Sniffling and stuffy nose (breathing through the mouth)

  • Itchy and/or runny nose with clear discharge

  • Red, itchy, and/or swollen eyes

  • Coughing or clearing the throat

  • Fatigue (due to not sleeping at night)

  • Dark circles under eyes

  • Nosebleeds

Although these types of allergens can irritate your baby, there’s usually no reason to contact your healthcare provider unless there are symptoms that interfere with daily routines. For example, if allergies prevent your little one from sleeping, eating, or socializing, your healthcare provider can offer some solutions and help you determine the cause.

Remedies for a Sneezing Newborn

As a parent, it’s difficult to watch your baby struggle with anything, and sneezing is no different. The good thing to know is that sneezing is not harming your newborn at all, even if your newborn is sneezing a lot or repeatedly.

If your newborn's sneezing is related to a respiratory infection such as the common cold, your healthcare provider may recommend some simple ways to treat your baby's symptoms, such as clearing blocked nasal passages with a bulb syringe or using a cool mist humidifier to help keep nasal passages moist.

If your little one's sneezing is triggered by nasal allergies, the best strategy is to keep irritants away from your baby. Here are some steps you can take to reduce or eliminate your baby's exposure to common irritants and allergens such as pet dander, mold, dust mites, tobacco smoke, and strong odors.

  • Keep pets outside or in a separate room away from where your baby sleeps, plays, and eats.

  • Check your house for mold and replace carpets if necessary. Use a dehumidifier to prevent future mold build-up, especially in damp areas like the basement.

  • Wash bedding in hot water every week to prevent dust mites and use covers on mattresses.

  • Refrain from smoking or smelling of tobacco smoke around your baby, and don’t use or spray strong fragrances.

The Bottom Line

It is completely normal for newborns to sneeze, as it’s a protective reflex that helps those tiny nasal passages get rid of common irritants. When newborns are sneezing a lot, it’s often a good sign that their reflexes and senses are functioning. If sneezing disrupts your baby’s daily routine, interfering with eating or sleeping, then it’s best to contact their healthcare provider.

If you notice your newborn is coughing and sneezing with a stuffed nose or spikes a fever, it could be a sign of the common cold or flu. For young babies under 3 months of age, contact their healthcare provider to address a fever as soon as possible.

Read more about how your newborn may behave in their first few weeks of life and how to support your baby’s development.