How to Stop Mouth Breathing During Winter Colds

by VocoVision on January 13, 2017

mouth breathing coldsColds are never fun—the sneezing, the headache, the sore throat and the stuffy nose. But did you know that they can cause problems for children who need speech therapy?

It’s true: when a child’s nose is blocked, they’ll start breathing through their mouth automatically. If the cold persists for a while the child might develop a habit of mouth-breathing. That’s bad news, according to myofunctional therapist Sarah Hornsby. It turns out that many disorders of the mouth and facial muscles can stem from mouth-breathing. Poor breathing habits can affect the teeth and surrounding muscles, which can cause problems for dentists, orthodontists, speech language pathologists, and more.

As far as speech goes, a person with abnormal oral muscle patterns in the tongue and lips may have a lisp or trouble articulating certain sounds. This can also lead to TMJ (jaw and temple pain), headaches, upset stomach from swallowing air, airway obstruction, and other problems.

Hornsby says most of her adult patients started mouth-breathing as a child, which changed the shape of their face and jaws permanently and caused huge problems in speech.

Therapists can help prevent that distressing possibility with these tips:

If your child doesn’t have a cold already, the simplest thing you can do is just to remind them to wash their hands, thoroughly and often—and you too. Though some colds are spread by airborne contact (such as someone sneezing on you), many colds are spread through contaminated surfaces. Teach them to not touch their faces or anyone else’s. That’s a sure way to get cold germs straight from their hands to their nose, mouth or eyes.

Even with all the hand-washing in the world, it’s nearly impossible to keep your child from coming into contact with the cold virus, so the next best thing you can do is to get their bodies ready to fight it off. Make sure their immune system is in great shape by getting enough sleep, minimizing stress, and eating a healthy diet. Eating probiotic foods such as yogurt is a good way to keep their gut healthy—that’s important because their immune systems need the energy. And drinking plenty of water is a good idea all around: they’ll feel better and be able to flush out infections too.

If your child does get sick, the most important thing is to help them try to find a way to breathe through their nose. You can try natural exercises like the one shown in this video, you can flush out their nose with a Neti Pot, or you can administer medications such as nasal spray or decongestants. Be careful when giving them over the counter medications though—it’s easy to get dependent on them and make themselves even stuffier than before.  A better alternative is to have them breathe in steam in the shower or try a nasal strip to help open up the nostrils.

The good news is that, even if your child does get a cold and develops a budding mouth-breathing habit, your vigilance will help spot it and get it corrected before any lasting damage is done.

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