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8 things you need to know about snot in children

Dr Deb Levy

Dr Deb Levy

Dr Deb is a dedicated holistic paediatrician. With 15 years experience as a children's doctor and a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians in General Paediatrics and Paediatric Emergency Medicine. Dr Deb follows an evidence-based approach and combines the latest medical research with lifestyle and dietary advice to best care for your child. Beyond her...
Created on Oct 23, 2023 · 3 mins read
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Yes we know, it’s not a very glamorous topic but we need to talk about snot.⁠ With the chilly winter months well and truly here, you may notice your little one is coming home from daycare with a runny nose. While you churn through the tissues at record speed 🤧, their snotty nose may hang around for what feels like a lifetime and it can be really challenging to navigate.

The good news is this is totally normal, especially if your little one is starting daycare or preschool for the first time. It’s important to remember their immune system hasn’t been exposed to that many germs yet so not only will they be coming home with adorable finger paintings for you, but they’ll also have a whole host of viral colds to boot.

To help prepare you for the cooler months ahead, we spoke to holistic paediatrician Dr Deb Levy about all things snot.

Snot in children: What you need to know

Thick yellow or green snot does not automatically mean your child needs antibiotics. This can be a normal progression of a viral cold and actually indicates that their immune system is fighting it. The snot changes from clear to thick from the immune cells being there.⁠

  1. Snot from only one nostril (especially if it’s also blood-stained) needs further investigation to look for a foreign body (kids are always sticking things up their noses!).⁠
  2. When children swallow snot, it makes their poops runny or mucousy.⁠ 💩
  3. Clear snot can mean a viral infection or hay fever (eg. allergic rhinitis). Look for a pattern or other symptoms to give you clues and go chat with your doctor.⁠ 🤒
  1. Snot is infectious (unless it’s hay fever) no matter if it’s clear or thick⁠.
  2. Sinusitis is uncommon but, if there’s ongoing thick green snot with fevers and tenderness over the sinuses in their face, they may have it. Your doctor will diagnose this.⁠
  3. It’s normal for young children to get around 10 viral colds a year. Yes, 10! 😢⁠⁠
  4. An upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) is another name for the typical cold your child gets. This is a viral infection that causes a runny nose and fevers (usually < 39°, but can be higher). Your child may develop a cough or even conjunctivitis but unless they become very unwell, they don’t require any specific treatment because it’s viral. There is no role for antibiotics.


As a parent, seeing our little ones unwell can be heartbreaking but it’s reassuring to know the facts about snot – what’s normal and what’s cause for concern. If you’re worried about your child, never hesitate to see your GP. And don’t forget to always pack extra tissues to prevent having to use your sleeve as an emergency back-up (hey no judgement, we’ve all been there 👃).

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