How to Clean Out an Infant's Nose

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The congestion in your infant's nose is caused when the membranes in the nose swell due to infection or irritation. When babies are born, their sinus passageways are not connected to the throat like children and adults. This helps them to nurse without aspirating milk. They can only breathe through their nose, so when their nose is stuffy, they will be very uncomfortable. Your infant's stuffy nose could even be caused by the breast milk or formula he drinks, as they cause the mucus in the nose to thicken.

Turn On the Steam

  • Try turning on a hot shower for a few minutes with the door closed. This will produce a vaporizing steam. You can sit with your baby in the bathroom (not near the hot water) and let her breathe in the steam. This will warm and loosen the mucous in his nose. You can also use a warm air vaporizer in her bedroom or a cool-air humidifier, if the air in your house is dry. Again, make sure the humidifier is not near the crib where the infant could get burned.

Irrigate With Saline

  • You can purchase infant saline spray at the drug store. Another option would be to make your own using ¼ tsp. of salt (without iodine) and dissolving it in 1 cup of warm water. With a small, sterile dropper, lay your infant back with his head tilted backward and put a few drops into each nostril, one nostril at a time. The saline will help to loosen the mucus in your baby's nose.

Use a Bulb Syringe

  • A bulb syringe can be found at your local drug store and is used to suck the mucus out of your infant's nose. The best type to purchase is a one-piece syringe rather than the two-piece type.

    Squeeze the air out of the syringe before inserting it into your infant's nostril. Press the other nostril closed when you are sucking out the mucus. Then repeat on other nostril. You may need to do this more than once. Beware, your baby will not like it, but will breathe more easily after the mucus is removed.

Elevate Your Baby's Head

  • Elevating your baby's head will help to keep her nasal passages open when she's sleeping. The safest way to do this is to purchase an infant sleeping wedge that has a harness to keep him from sliding down the crib mattress. You can also prop him up in his car seat, infant carrier or swing to help him sleep and breathe more freely.

Things to Avoid

  • Irritants like perfume, smoke or dust can irritate your child's nasal passages. Switch to products that are fragrance free, wash your child's bedding in hot water to kill dust mites and keep animals out of his room. You may want to purchase a high efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA) to place in her room. This will remove small particles from the air.

When to Call the Doctor

  • It is always wise to consult your doctor when your infant experiences any discomfort. If the blockage in your infant's nose continues to be a problem, call your doctor immediately.

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