Saline Nose Drops: The Solution for Your Baby’s Stuffy Nose


It’s 2 a.m. Your 6 month old, who’s been fighting off a cold, woke up hungry – but struggles with feeding because he can’t breathe well from a stuffy nose. Cold medicine is off-limits for kids under age 4, in fact, some are not recommended for under age 12. So, how can you help him feel better, fast?

Thankfully, there’s a natural remedy for nasal congestion – saline (salt-water) solution. This age-old treatment is generally a safe and effective option for children over 12 weeks of age. It helps thin and loosen mucus inside your child’s nose so it can come out more easily. A rubber bulb syringe – affectionately called a “snot sucker” by some parents – helps to draw out the loosened mucus.

Check with your child’s doctor if you have questions about how to safely use a bulb syringe or saline drops.

Where can I get nose drops?
Saline solution for babies and children is sold in the form of nose drops. You can buy it over-the-counter (without a prescription) in drugstores.

How do you do it?
Giving the nose drops:

Saline drops can be used a few times each day. You may find it especially helpful to use it before eating and going to bed.

•Have your child lie down with her head tilted back slightly.
•Using a clean plastic nose dropper, place one to two drops (just one drop for babies) of the saline solution in one nostril only.
Older children can then blow their noses into tissues. To clear an infant’s nasal passages, you can gently suction out the mucus with a soft rubber bulb syringe. If needed, you can repeat this procedure with the other nostril. Using a bulb syringe can irritate a baby’s nose, so use it only when you have to.

Suctioning out mucus:

•Squeeze the air out of the bulb syringe. Once it is deflated, keep the bulb squeezed as you insert the tip into the child’s nostril.
•Gently place the tip of the syringe into a nostril. Point it toward the side of the nose, not the center.
•Slowly release the bulb and let the air come back into the bulb. This will pull mucus out of the nose and into the bulb syringe.
•Take the bulb out and squeeze it several times to empty out the mucus onto a tissue.
Be sure to clean the saline nose dropper and the bulb syringe with soap and water after each use. Also, some babies may gag or vomit after you use the bulb syringe. If possible, avoid using it right after a feeding.

Time is the only cure for the common cold, but these steps may help make your child more comfortable in the meantime. If your baby has trouble breathing or his skin starts to turn blue, call 9-1-1.

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