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Howard G. Smith, M.D. is a former radio medical editor and talk show host in the Boston Metro area.  His "Medical Minute" of health and wellness news and commentary was a regular weekday feature on WBZ-AM, WRKO-AM, and WMRE-AM.   His popular two-way talk show, Dr. Howard Smith OnCall, was regularly heard Sunday morning and middays on WBZ.

Trained at Harvard Medical School and a long-time faculty member at Boston Children’s Hospital, he practiced Pediatric Otolaryngology for 40 years in Boston, Southern California, and in central Connecticut.

If you have questions or suggestions about this content, please email the doctor at or leave him a message at 516-778-8864.  His website is:

Please note that the news, views, commentary, and opinions that Dr. Smith provides are for informational purposes only.  Any changes that you or members of your family contemplate making to lifestyle, diet, medications, or medical therapy should always be discussed beforehand with personal physicians who have been supervising your care.

Aug 9, 2019



Newborns and infants have very sensitive developing respiratory and gastrointestinal channels.  When parents have brought them to my pediatric ENT office, I found that their breathing issues were usually due to  airway irritation from refluxed feedings and dryness.  These observation became so common, that I began to offer 3 tips to every parent of a newborn or young infant.


1. Never Put Your Baby To Bed With A Full Stomach.

2. Wash Your Baby’s Nasal Cavities with Aerosol Saline After Every Meal.

3. Keep Your Child’s Bedroom At A Comfortable Humidity.



Never put your baby to bed with a full stomach.  Newborns and infants under a year of age have developing and poorly functional esophageal sphincters or gates.  Any fluids or foods in the stomach and the stomach acids they induce will easily back up, reflux, into the upper esophagus, the throat, the nose, and fall down into the airway.  The fluids, food particles, and acids are all irritating to linings and produce swelling and irritation in the throat, nasal linings, voice box, windpipe, and the lungs.  This leads to nasal congestion, coughing, and poor feeding.


It takes 60 to 80 minutes for the stomach to naturally empty, and gravity helps the rate of emptying but also prevents reflux.  You can put your baby in a swing or a carseat during this emptying period.  If the baby falls asleep, you can transfer the child after the stomach is empty.  If in a carseat, it’s fine for the infant to sleep on.



Clean your baby’s nasal passages with aerosol saline after every meal.  

Just as esophageal valves are incompletely functional, so too are the throat and nasal valves that keep oral and throat material out of the nose.  Since fluids, food particles, salivary enzymes, and stomach acids back up into the rear nasal passages, cleansing the nose with a puff or two of nasal aerosol spray will clean the surfaces on each side of the nose and prevent lining swelling and often severe nasal congestion.  Nasal saline is available over-the-counter as under the brand names Simply Saline and Little Noses.  All nasal saline is normal saline, and it may be used for children and adults of any age.



Keep Your Child’s Bedroom At A Comfortable Humidity.  Room air, particular during the dry winter months or in desert climates, tends to dry out respiratory linings.  Newborns and infants breathe more rapidly than older children and adults and sometimes at twice the rate. This drying prevents their normal function, creates lining swelling, and leads to thick mucus that can harbor growing bacteria.  The ideal relative humidity is between 40 to 50%, and you can check the level with an inexpensive humidity gauge available at the hardware store.  If you have forced hot air heat, you can put a central humidifier on your system, but it must be cleaned regularly to remain safe.  Alternatively, I recommend the use of a warm air humidifier or vaporizer that safely distills the water and creates water vapor or clouds rather than droplets.  Cold mist humidifiers spew the water into the air as droplets that may contain chemicals, bacteria, mold, and any other contaminants found in your humidifier’s reservoir.


Congratulations on the new baby in your family.  Do these 3 things to keep them healthy and happy….. and out of the ear, nose, and throat specialists’ offices.


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