How to Clear a Baby's Stuffy Nose

Is your little one suffering from a stuffy nose? These expert-approved home remedies can help combat their congestion and clear their nose so you can both breathe easy.

A stuffy nose can result in one cranky baby. Mild nasal congestion usually isn't worrisome in babies since it's often caused by allergies, dry air, or viral infections like the common cold. But babies can't clear the mucus themselves, which means you'll need to help with the task. Keep reading to learn how to sagely help clear a baby's stuffy nose with everything from saline nasal spray to tried-and-true home remedies.

Using Saline Nasal Spray to Clear a Stuffy Nose

While it may be tempting to break out the decongestant to help clear your baby's congestion, you should never give decongestant medication to children under 4 years old. That's because these medications can cause potentially life-threatening side effects in babies and young children, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

One thing you can use: saline nasal spray. "You can gently clear your newborn's nose with saline solution and a bulb syringe," says Michael Rothschild, M.D., director of pediatric otolaryngology at Mt. Sinai Hospital, in New York City. Saline solution is the only safe nasal spray for babies, infants, and toddlers.

How to Use Saline to Clear a Baby's Nose

To use saline solution:

  1. Lay the baby down on their back and, if possible, slightly tilt their head back (don't force it, though).
  2. Spray two to three drops of saline spray into each nostril. (Don't worry if your baby sneezes some of it out—it still made its way into the nasal passage; if any spray comes out of the nose, wipe it away gently with a tissue.)
  3. Once the saline spray is in your baby's nose, use a bulb syringe (also called a nasal aspirator) to clear the mucus. (Choose an aspirator that's specially made for their tiny nostrils; it should have a rounded, acorn-shaped tip, says Dr. Rothschild.)
  4. Squeeze the bulb to get all of the air out, and, while still squeezing, gently insert the tip into your baby's nostril (be sure not to stick it too far up).
  5. Release the pressure, take it out, and squeeze the mucus out of the bulb onto a tissue.
  6. Repeat in the other nostril to clear mucus and alleviate their stuffiness.

If a manual bulb isn't your jam, you can also use some of the more convenient nasal aspirators available, such as the FridaBaby Snot Sucker. These nasal aspirators use suction from your mouth or a motor to help you gently suck the snot out of your baby's nose more effectively.

crying baby

Other Home Remedies for Clearing a Stuffy Nose

Looking for other natural remedies for your baby's blocked nose? These three options might help clear the congestion between rounds with saline drops and the nasal aspirator.

Steam up the bathroom

When your baby has a stuffy nose, try running a hot shower for a few minutes. Then, when the bathroom is nice and steamy, sit in the room with your baby for a bit. The warm, humid air will help loosen the mucus in their nostrils. Just don't go in the hot shower with your little one—the water can scald them!

Run a cool-mist humidifier

Most of us have the heat on in our homes during the winter months, and that dry air can aggravate an already stuffy nose. Keeping a cool-mist humidifier going in your baby's room can offer some relief from that dry air and prevent stuffiness. Be sure to keep the humidifier clean to prevent bacteria, fungus, and mold from growing.

Encourage hydration and rest

It's a bit of a catch-22: Babies often need more sleep when they're sick but their symptoms can make it difficult to get the sleep they need. When your baby is dealing with a stuffy nose, don't neglect your soothing bedtime routine. Also, make sure your little one drinks enough breast milk or formula to stay hydrated, which can also help relieve stuffiness. Your baby can stay in an upright position during feedings to decrease congestion.

When To Visit the Doctor

Most of the time, baby congestion is nothing to worry about. But you should call the doctor if your little one has difficulty breathing, wheezing noises, trouble feeding, or has a fever. Otherwise, make an appointment if the congestion doesn't clear within four or five days.

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