Children's Hospital Colorado
Ear, Nose & Throat

Nasal Obstruction

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What is nasal obstruction?

Nasal obstruction occurs when something is blocking the nasal passages on either one or both sides of the nose.

What causes nasal obstruction in kids?

Nasal blockage has many causes. These include:

  • Swelling of the lining of the nose
  • Narrowness of the nasal cavity (the space behind the nose in the middle of the face) related to a birth deformity
  • A cyst in the tear ducts
  • Deviated septum (when the bone or cartilage in the middle of the nose is crooked and makes breathing hard)
  • Incomplete development of the nasal cavity
  • Enlarged adenoids (the tissue at the back of the nasal passage)
  • Nasal polyps (small growths in the nasal passage that can sometimes cause breathing problems)
  • Foreign bodies
  • Vascular malformation (which happens when veins don't form properly)
  • Tumors

Nasal obstruction in children

Nasal obstruction can occur in any age group, but certain causes are more common in children of certain ages.

Nasal obstruction in infants

Nasal obstruction in infants is most often caused by nasal tissue swelling, but may also result from blockage from bone narrowing, incomplete development of the nasal cavity or blockage by a tear duct cyst.

Nasal obstruction in toddlers

Toddlers are most likely to have nasal obstruction from nasal tissue swelling or adenoid (the tissue at the back of the nasal passage) enlargement.

Nasal obstruction in kids and teens

Adolescents are more likely to have obstruction from nasal tissue swelling likely related to allergies, adenoid enlargement, septal deviation (crooked middle nose bone or cartilage), inferior turbinate (which filters and moistens air) enlargement, nasal polyps (small growths in the nasal passage) and very rarely, tumors. Tumors are rare and will usually present with other signs and symptoms.

Next steps

Get to know our pediatric experts.

Deborah Gilbert, CPNP-PC

Deborah Gilbert, CPNP-PC

Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Tammy Wang, MD

Tammy Wang, MD


Rachel Hall, PA-C

Rachel Hall, PA-C

Physician Assistant

Erin Teravest, PA-C

Erin Teravest, PA-C

Physician Assistant

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