How to Open a Child’s Blocked Nose

There’s nothing frightening for parents than to see their child struggle to breathe. If your baby is not able to breathe properly due to a blocked nose, this article might help you a lot. So, let’s discuss here the signs to identify if your baby really suffer from a stuffed nose and what’s causing it along with certain easy home remedies to open your child’s blocked nose.

How to Open a Child’s Blocked Nose

How do you know if  your baby has a stuffed nose- the Symptoms

While it is not a very difficult task to know whether your child has a blocked nose or not, you must remain alert for signs and symptoms of the same. After all, your baby is too small to ask for help!

Know that your baby has got a blocked nose when,

  • they breathe through their mouth
  • they get irritable
  • they snort while breathing. Snorting is almost an explosive sound made by the nose when forceful breathing occurs
  • they have difficulty in feeding. Because they are breathing through mouth, they can’t take food

A newborn baby, however, might have a stuffy nose and may snort when breathing for the first few days of life. This is because in the womb they stay surrounded by fluid and some of this fluid may still be there in the nose. Sometimes such a newborn baby will sneeze for the first couple of days in an attempt to get rid of this leftover fluid in their nasal passages.

What causes stuffy nose in babies?

The reason for a stuffed nose in newborn babies can be understood as explained above but what causes blocked nose in children including toddlers? The possible causes for a child’s blocked nose are listed here.

  • Dry air. Indoor heating, especially in winter months, may dry the nasal passages of your baby.
  • Such irritants dust, smoke, perfumes, pollen etc. These can be termed as allergies and they might either cause a runny nose or a stuffed nose.
  • Viral infections like cold and flu. The immune system of toddlers and young babies are still not so strong and they can easily catch infections.

Why is it essential to treat nasal congestion in babies at the earliest?

We elders do not get bothered so much when we have a stuffed nose because we can handle it more comfortably and can devise ways to breathe alternatively. However, your baby is not so adaptable to the environment as well as to its own internal systems. Thus, you should take immediate steps to open your child’s blocked nose at the earliest because

  • very small babies do not know how to breathe through mouth. They insist on breathing through their nose, even when blocked. If you see your baby struggling with blocked nose and trying to breathe through it, show your baby, how to breathe through mouth. The good news is that babies are very good learners and they can copy what you do. So, help them breathe through mouth until your next move when you clear the blocked nose.
  • if you do not open the blocked nose of your child and let him breathe through mouth, you will not be able to feed the baby. The baby needs mouth to hold the source of food and suck it. If the nose is blocked and mouth is doing the breathing job, how will your baby eat! So, immediately take steps to clean the blocked nose of your baby.

Here are some effective ways to open a child’s stuffed nose.

Ways to open a child’s blocked nose

You may try the measures given below to help clean your baby’s blocked nose. However, if the baby keeps having difficulty in breathing or feeding, immediately see your baby’s doctor. He can diagnose if the baby is suffering from some infection or other medical condition that may be causing the stuffy nose. Some conditions require medical intervention.

1. Use nasal saline to moisten and drain your baby’s dry stuffed nose

If your baby’s blocked nose is due to dry air or dryness, the first step that you need to take is to moisten your child’s nose. For this you need saline drops. You can also make the saline solution at home.

Get this:

  • Nasal saline or homemade saline solution (steps given below in instructions of this remedy)
  • Clean and sterilized dropper (may use eye dropper)

Do this:

  • If you want to make the saline at home, take a cup of warm water and add 1/4 tsp of salt to this. Stir it well to dissolve the salt completely. Make a fresh batch daily if needed and store it in a clean glass jar having a lid.
  • Lay your baby down, on the back.
  • Keep the baby’s chin tilted up slightly. For this, you may place a rolled towel or a small blanket beneath the shoulders of the baby.
  • Now using the dropper, place one or two drops of saline in each nostril of your baby. If you are using store bought nasal saline, squirt it once or twice into the baby’s nostril.
  • Wipe the dropper clean. Do this after every use.
  • After 30 to 60 seconds, turn your baby and lay him down onto his stomach to help the nose drain the mucus. You may also use a tissue or swab to catch the mucus outside the nostril. Don’t insert them into your child’s nostrils though. If your baby coughs or sneezes, the mucus will come out with the saline.

This will help moisten the dry nose and may be enough to ease your child’s congested nose. If your baby still struggles with stuffy nose, you need to further drain your baby’s nose. But your baby can’t blow nose so you need to use some tool such as a bulb syringe or a nasal aspirator to clear the blocked nose of your baby. Do this after 30 to 60 seconds of moistening your baby’s nose with the saline.

Precaution: Don’t use saline solution more than 4 days in a row. Also do not use it more than 2-3 times a day. Excessive use of saline may further dry out the baby’s nose aggravating the problem in hand.

2. Use a bulb syringe to clean your child’s blocked nose

Bulb syringe is a very good suction device to drain your baby’s stuffed nose. Here’s how to use a bulb syringe to clean your child’s blocked nose.

  • If your child’s nose is dry apart from being stuffed, first moisten his nose using nasal saline as explained in the previous remedy.
  • Squeeze out the air from the bulb of the syringe. This will create a vacuum.
  • Now, gently insert the rubber tip of the bulb syringe into one nostril of  your baby.
  • Slowly and gently release the bulb to suction out the mucus from the nostril.
  • Then remove the syringe from the baby’s nostril.
  • Squeeze the bulb somewhat forcefully into a tissue or napkin. This will expel the mucus out of the bulb syringe.
  • Wipe the syringe clean.
  • Then repeat the process for the other nostril of your baby’s nose.
  • Check after 5-10 minutes. If the nose of your baby is still blocked, again moisten the nose with saline and use the bulb syringe to drain out the left over mucus from your baby’s nose.
  • Don’t use this method of suction using bulb syringe more than 2-3 times a day. Frequent usage of it may irritate the soft lining of your baby’s nose.
  • Always clean the bulb syringe with warm soapy water after every use and dry it completely before the next use.

Precaution: Always use bulb syringe gently for cleaning the blocked nose of your child. If you suction too aggressively, the nasal tissues of baby can get inflamed or may even bleed. This may make the nasal congestion worse. Never do this when your baby is irritable or resists your attempt to clean the nose. Do when the baby is calm and cooperates with you.

3. Use nasal aspirator to clean your baby’s blocked nose

Nasal aspirator is more or less like a bulb syringe. Some of the nasal aspirators though have a different mechanism where you use your mouth to suction out the mucus with the help of the aspirator. Here’s how to use such nasal aspirator to clean a child’s blocked nose.

  • Moisten your baby’s nose using nasal saline, especially if your baby’s nose is dry.
  • Position  the nozzle of the nasal aspirator at the opening of one nostril of the baby’s nose.
  • Place your mouth at the mouthpiece on the other end of the aspirator.
  • Gently suction mucus out of your child’s nose and into the nozzle. You don’t have to worry about the mucus or infection that may be transferred to your mouth because a filter in the aspirator blocks bacteria or virus and keeps you from inhaling any germs.
  • To clean the nasal aspirator, you can separate all its parts and wash them with soap and warm water.

Home Remedies for a Child’s Blocked Nose

If you don’t want to use suction tools such as bulb syringe or nasal aspirator to clean your child’s blocked nose, you may take help of home remedies to get rid of stuffed nose of your baby.

4. Steam inhalation to clean your child’s stuffed nose

This is a harmless method to drain mucus from nose of adults as well as kids. Just that you need to be a little more careful when you make your child inhale steam to clean the blocked nose. Steam inhalation introduces warm, moist air into the lungs through nose and throat. This not only cleans the blocked nose of your child but also cures the inflamed sinuses, if any. When you are going for this remedy for your baby, you should preferably use a steam inhaler instead of bowl with warm water. This ensures easy inhalation for the baby and safety of your child too.

Get this:

  • Steamer (Steam inhaler)
  • Hot water

Do this:

  • If your baby is too small (few months to 1- 1/2 years old), You will need to keep the steamer near your baby so that she can inhale the steam naturally.
  • For this, keep the steamer in your baby’s room.
  • Pour hot water into the bowl of the steamer and switch it on.
  • The steam helps unblock the stuffed nose of your small baby.
  • If your child is a toddler of more than 1-1/2 years of age, make her bow down at least one and a half feet above the bowl of the steamer
  • Ask her or show her how to start inhaling the warm air coming out of the steamer.

Precaution:  Always read the instructions about proper use of the steam inhalers that you buy and use accordingly to avoid any accident or mis-happening.

5. Hot shower to clean a baby’s stuffed nose

Sometimes it is very difficult to make your little child inhale steam from a steamer. What can you do then? You can use the hot shower in your bathroom. It will work as effectively as a steam inhaler does.

  • Run the hot shower of your bathroom for several minutes. Keep the door closed or almost closed so that the steam cannot escape the bathroom.
  • When the steam builds up in the bathroom, take your child there.
  • Make your baby just be there in the bathroom for few minutes. The baby will inhale the steam naturally.
  • You can do this 1-2 times daily until your child’s blocked nose gets opened.

Precaution: Never leave your child alone when steamer is on or the hot shower is running. Be with your child and monitor the process closely to avoid any accident.

6. Warm compress can help open blocked nose of a baby

Warm compresses can also be used to loosen up the mucus so that the mucus could be drained from the congested sinuses of your baby. Just be careful about not using hot or too warm compress. Babies are delicate and so are their skin. So, use just a warm compress- neither too warm nor cold.

Get this:

  • Clean cloth or towel
  • Warm water

Do this:

  • Soak the cloth in warm water
  • Wring it out to drain the excess water. You need a damp warm cloth, that’s it.
  • Now place this warm cloth on the forehead of your baby, only for few seconds
  • Then place it near nose, over cheek area for few seconds
  • You may also place it over the nose of the baby but only for 1-2 seconds, not more than that
  • The warmth of the cloth will trigger sinus flow. This will help reduce congestion and your babies blocked nose will be cleared.

7. Use clear chicken soup for older babies to open stuffed nose

If your baby is not breastfeeding and is older enough to have soups and broths, you can use the age old remedy of chicken soup to help decongest the child’s blocked nose.

Get this:

  • Chicken pieces (shredded)- 2
  • Small onion- 1
  • Garlic pods- 1
  • Salt- a pinch or two
  • Water- 2 cups

Do this:

  • Pressure cook everything. If you don’t use a pressure cooker, boil and then simmer all the ingredients in the water till everything is super soft.
  • You can either use the soup water and make your child sip it while it is warm or blend everything once the soup cools down a little.
  • If you are blending, then sieve out the clear watery soup and give it to your child to sip.
  • Chicken soup gives quick relief from nasal congestion

8. Acupressure points to open a child’s blocked nose

Acupressure is a great way to decongest stuffed nose. You can use it for your baby too. If the baby is too small, do it yourself but with gentle hand. Never exert too much pressure. In fact, just rubbing the acupressure points with your fingers is what you may try for your very small kids. If your kid is older, say, about 8-10 years old, you can teach him or her to press the acupressure points meant to relieve stuffy nose.

acupressure points for blocked nose

  • Place the middle fingers of both of your hands beside your nostrils
  • Your index fingers should be there next to the middle fingers
  • Gently press the point up and underneath the cheekbones.
  • Do this for about 1 minute.

acupressure points for blocked nose

9. Keep your baby hydrated to prevent dry blocked nose

One of the major causes of stuffy nose in babies is dry air. So, it is required to keep them well hydrated so that they do not get blocked nose. Even if their nose gets congested, hydration can help open such blocked nose.

  • If your baby is under 6 months, you don’t need anything else other than breastfeeding. Breast milk gives the required hydration to your baby. Don’t stop feeding your baby. If your baby is not able to suck milk due to blocked nose, take help of one or other ways described earlier here to clear his nose.
  • If your baby is older than 6 months and is taking foods other than mother’s milk, you can give him water and soups, broths etc. to keep him or her hydrated.

10. Use humidifier or cool mist vaporizer to relieve toddler’s blocked nose

Because dry air can cause blocked nose in your toddler, you need to use humidifier to keep the air moistened. Keep a humidifier or cool mist vaporizer in your baby’s room, if possible near the crib or bed. Water vapor helps moisten and loosen the mucus stuck inside your baby’s nose.

Just ensure that you clean the humidifier and re-fill the vaporizer every day. If you don’t do this, there are high chances that mold and bacteria will build up in the machine.

When to call the doctor for your baby with stuffed nose?

Although, you can, most often, help relieve the blocked nose of your child at home, there are certain conditions when your baby would need medical attention.

  • When your baby is too small, say, under 3 months and also suffers from temperature of 37.5C (99.5 F) or higher
  • When your baby’s cold lasts for more than 7 days
  • When you see rashes on your baby’s body along with stuffed nose and cold
  • When there is inflammation on the forehead, eyes, side of the nose or cheek of your baby
  • When your baby’s cough gets worse and he starts wheezing or gasping
  • When your baby is not interested in feeding at all
  • When your baby pulls or tugs at ears frequently
  • When you see your baby to be extremely fussy
  • When you see or feel that your baby is in pain
  • When you see anything not normal or get the feeling that your baby’s stuffed nose cannot be dealt with at home

Although the above home remedies for blocked nose in children can help relieve stuffed nose, it is recommended that you check with your doctor or your baby’s pediatrician to rule out any other underlying serious issue with your baby’s health.

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