Saturday, July 23, 2011

Keeping Nasal Passages Clear & Mouths Closed

If your child's mouth is open, her tongue becomes desensitized and without the proper placement of the tongue, the inside of her mouth doesn't form correctly. Exposure to the air can also cause her tongue to enlarge. These issues carry over into sleep problems, with apnea and sleep obstruction and interfere with proper speech development. Here are tips to help you tackle this issue in many ways including supplementing; oral motor therapy; "mouth dot" training; loosening, clearing and preventing congestion; and breathing exercises.

Our children with T21 usually have smaller nasal passages than a typical child. Coupled with their overproduction of GABA -- which causes airway epithelium to produce mucous and decrease the tone of smooth muscle -- and thyroid issues which can cause a swollen tongue-- we have quite a problem to deal with. So, it's very important to keep your child's nasal passages clear, not only for the benefits that breathing through the nose give, but also to avoid the problems associated with mouth breathing. Having a closed mouth prevents a domino effect on her development.

How do you encourage a closed mouth?

Babies and children who are mouth breathers experience the same negative effects as adults, which include abnormalities in blood gases, cell hypoxia (reduced body and brain oxygen content), reduced perfusion of all vital organs and suppressed immune system. Additionally, the effect on children's development include:

- Malocclusion (misalignment of teeth)
- Malformation of palate
- Tongue enlargement and
- Higher incidence of gingivitis (gum infection)
- Allergic rhinitis
- Enlarged adenoids and tonsils
- Constipation
- Obstructive deviation of the nasal septum
- Postural alterations
- Additional facial changes
- Bad breath

For more information, here are related abstracts:

Low Muscle Tone

Our children often have open mouths for many reasons, one is low muscle tone. Oral and deep muscle massage can help with low muscle tone, see Related Posts below. In the meantime, be vigilant about keeping your child's mouth closed. For Jett, right from the beginning, it was a non-stop job to close his mouth. When possible, I held him on my chest, tummy down as he slept. He was much less likely to have his mouth open in this position. Otherwise, I would put washcloths under his chin or the back of his head to make it so his mouth would be closed. When he was awake, I could usually just touch his tongue with my finger and he'd bring it in and close his mouth. Some parents put their finger under the chin and just close the mouth that way.

Loosen Congestion

A product I understand is successful in helping to prevent congestion and colds is Xlear. It's a saline nasal spray with xlylitol in it.

One product I used successfully with Jett is Si Jin Bao brand of AIR tea. It's a Traditional Chinese Medicine concentrated herbal tea blend that cleared Jett's nasal passages. It takes a couple of months to fully clear the congestion and he took it twice a day from age 5-12 months old. It tastes great! My pediatrician recommended it. You take it before your child gets sick.

I used to be up a lot in the night with the nose drops and "mucus suckers," but not at all anymore. I just clean out his nose quickly with a swab in the morning and give him saline nose drops twice a day. Before, Jett was completely congested back in his sinuses where I couldn't get to it. After using AIR tea, I could finally feel the air coming from his nose, which I couldn't do before. At 21 months old, Jett has never had a cold or sinus infection. I would give him 1/5 teaspoon (1 ml) in the morning and before bed with 2ml of water. He loved it!

It's blended by hand in small, organic batches.

You can get this from your local TCM practitioner ($45-65) or amazon ($16). The website is Go to the homepage, click on "Order Now" and scroll down on the left hand side of the page. You will see a pink bottle and it is labeled AIR. Click on it to order. You can also get it from Jett's TCM at

A I R (Allergy Immune Respiratory) Tea

Organic Ingredients:

Glycerin (Plant Source), 生薑Sheng Jiang (Fresh Ginger), 桔梗Jie Geng (Platycodon), 車
前子Che Qian Zi (Plantago Seed), 厚朴Hou Po (Magnolia Bark), 補骨脂Bu Gu Zhi
(Psoralea Fruit), 沙參Bei Sha Shen (Glehnia Root), 蒼耳子Cang Er Zi (Xanthium Fruit),
白芷Bai Zhi (Dahurien Angelica), 辛夷花Xin Yi Hua (Magnolia Flower), Distilled Water

Category: Formulas That Regulates Qi and Stops Cough

Traditional Chinese Medicine -- Western equivalent:
Allow Lungs to grasp Qi -- Anti- histamine
Nourishes production of Yin &Yang -- Anti- spasmodic
Resolve Phlegm -- Anti-emetic
Transform Phlegm -- Anti-inflammatory
Eliminate Phlegm -- Functions like Anti-biotic
Open the Nose -- Functions like Anti-viral
Rectifies the Qi -- Stomach Expectorant

All types of Asthma
All types Cough
Sinusitis (including sinus infection)
Seasonal Allergies (itchy, watery eyes, itchy nose, etc.)
Certain types of Uticaria (Differential Diagnosis Required)

This formula is designed to eliminate any upper-respiratory and/or sinus conditions. The
formula was originally designed several years ago at the request of a local Holistic
Pediatrician who was looking for something to stop coughs and clear infections that also
tasted good.

Clear Congestion

Nose Frida

I recommend Nose Frida with saline nose drops or xclear spray to get the mucus out. For the saline, you don't have to squeeze the bottle, you just turn it upside down and gravity will release a couple of drops gently in his nose. The Nose Frida is a gross concept, but it works great. Once the AIR tea gets going and releases all the mucus that's backed up, you won't need to use it everyday any more. (I don't have to use at all now.)

I can't say Jett likes it at all. But when I did use it, I told him what I was doing every time and told him when I was stopping, etc. ("1-2-3, stop!") He seemed to understand that it was a necessary evil. (The battery powered ones didn't work at all for us. He found them kind of relaxing though. He'd even hold it without batting it away.)

The Baby Vac

Another one that's recommended is The Baby Vac:
And if you google baby vac, there are some YouTube videos of babies using it on themselves. Be sure to put saline solution in his nose every time before you use this. I understand that it works great for getting the stuff way in the back of the nose that would be difficult to get out with the Nose Frida.

Neti Pot I have not used the neti pot for Jett since he is so young. But many people swear by its use. The Neti pot looks like a miniature tea pot. It's an ancient remedy that is filled with a saline solution and then used to irrigate the nose. It washes out all of the pollution, infection and allergens that may be causing trouble. It's okay to use the neti pot as long as symptoms occur -- from once a week to multiple times a day. If you don't have a neti pot, a pop-top bottle (like those used by cyclists) can do the job, as the top is bigger enough to cover a nostril, with a small hole in the middle. 

Here's a great post on natural ways to clear congestion at the 3 of 21 Blog. 

Opening Nasal Passages

As mentioned earlier, our children usually have smaller nasal passages because the bridge of the nose is not as defined. The mid-face can get extra support with proper nutrition to support bone growth and nutrient absorption (see posts below) and with Craniosacral therapy. CST is an alternative medicine therapy used by osteopaths, massage therapists, naturopaths and chiropractors. CST is a gentle, hands-on method of evaluating and enhancing the functioning of a physiological body system called the craniosacral system, comprised of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. The practitioner gently works with the spine and the skull and its cranial sutures, diaphragms, and fascia. In this way, the restrictions of nerve passages are eased, the movement of cerebrospinal fluid through the spinal cord is optimized and misaligned bones are said to be restored to their proper position.
I've had craniosacral work done on myself well before Jett was born. Working as an artist, I could no longer feel my hands, which I obviously needed to continue to support myself. Out of desperation, I ended up with a practitioner who performed cold laser and craniosacral therapy on me. These two therapies allowed me to feel my hands again and to continue to work. Among many other benefits, CST also opened my nasal passages and ear canals. So, Jett has had several sessions of CST. (If we had more money, he'd get more!) Kristen Morrison, who wrote Naturally Better Kids, also has seen great improvement in her child through CST. She even has pictures showing how the bridge of his nose has become more defined after each session.
If you are wary of trusting someone to manipulate your baby or child, have the practitioner do it on you first so you can have a better understanding for a more informed decision.

Preventing Congestion

Electric humidifiers and natural humidifiers, like house plants, can help increase the amount of moisture in the air so your child's nasal passages will be less dry and irritated and more lubricated. I moved all the house plants into the bedroom every night and moved them back out during the day. I also put wet wash clothes near where he was breathing to increase the humidity. (Yes, I'm aware that I'm obsessive!)

Allergies, both through food and from the air, can be a main cause of congestion as well. You can help clear the air of many allergens by using a hepa air filter. Regular dusting and vacuuming, when the child is not in the room, helps as well. Replacing carpet with tile or wood flooring will also reduce the amount of allergens in your home.

I've recently discovered NAET which are energy treatments that help "clear" allergies. Jett and I are going through this process now and I'm really excited about the results. (Will blog about it when I can--a comment or email showing interest will nudge me to do it sooner rather than later.)

Honey, purchased from a local bee keeper, can help your body build up immunity against allergens outside your home. Honey should not be given to babies.

Anti-Mouth Breathing Exercises

I haven't had to try anything like this since Jett can keep his mouth closed himself now. If you have, or get, a neurodevelopmentalist, s/he can address the problem for you and create specific exercises to do. Otherwise, I found this article called "Using the Buteyko Breathing Method For Children" by Dr. Natalia Lapa, MD, Specialist in Remedial Gymnastics, Children Hospital No. 8, Novosibirsk, USSR, 1991. The paper was published in the book "Buteyko method. Its application in medical practice", ed. by K. P. Buteyko, 2-nd ed., 1991, Titul, Odessa, USSR [in Russian]. You can find the method explained here: If you or someone you know has tried this, I'd love to hear how it worked for you.


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Rola said...

I have been trying to find this tea on AMAZON since I live outside USA. AIR tea is not sold on AMAZON. Does it have any other name or alternative.

Thank you for your valuable advice.

Mother of YAZAN (T21)

Andi Durkin said...

Have you emailed customer service at to see if they can mail it to you? Or have you had the chance to search the internet for the brand name Si Jin Bao? If those avenues have lead you nowhere, please email me at andiandi222 (at) gmail (dot) com.

Elisabeth said...

Hi Andie, thank you so much for all the time you have put into creating this website which has been a very helpful resource for me and so many others! I was wondering if you would suggest using AIR Tea as a preventative measure or only to treat congestion? My daughter is 7 months old and hasn't had any congestion yet... But I want to keep it that way through cold & flu season. Thanks!

Andi Durkin said...

Since congestion is such a common problem with our kids, I would go ahead and get it with winter looming. As soon as the sniffles come, you'll be prepared.

Unknown said...

Good morning Andi,
I have just discovered your blog (Stacey) and my daughter Alexis (T21) is 18 years old. She has been very blessed from birth. NO ear infections but a heart repair was done at 8 months old. She reads well due to the fact that at 4 years old, I took a year off work to teach her how to read. I labeled everything in the house with rectangle wooden signs.
For a long time now, she has a thick yellow film on her tongue every morning. We are not sure what to do. Please help? I only started Googling this issue today. When she brushes her teeth in the morning we don't see it again until the next morning.

Andi Durkin said...

Hi Stacey!
The yellow (or white) coating on the tongue could be from a mycoplasma infection or biofilm. We all had a white coated tongue before mycoplasma treatment and now we don't. Since mycoplasma is the base of many, many diseases, I would look into treatment. There's a book called America is Infected by Daniella Ella that explains it. If you email me, I can send you some natural cures that aren't as effective and take longer, but do get the mycoplasma numbers down. (I think it's best to start with natural treatment anyway because if the infection is really bad, the die off symptoms of full on treatment can be daunting.)