A child may have a stuffed-up or runny nose for a number of reasons. It may simply be because she is crying. It could also be a result of things in her environment (e.g., heating, pets) or because she has a cold or other infection. In the case of an infection, the color of the mucus is in no way related to how serious the infection is.
What to do?
If your child has a stuffed-up or runny nose, you don’t necessarily have to relieve the congestion. However, if she is having trouble feeding or sleeping because of a stuffy nose, you can try clearing it out.
There are several ways of doing this. Here are some methods:
Ideally, use a different bottle (with dropper or sprayer) for each child.
- Take a long bath or shower with your child or let her play in the bath. The water and steam can help thin the mucus and clear her nose.
- If the mucus is thick, you can thin it by using a saline solution (salt water). Always use a saline solution (salt water), not medicated nasal drops or sprays (e.g. decongestants). Your pharmacist can advise you.
Saline solution is available in two types of bottle.
- Dropper bottle. You can also make up a batch of saline solution yourself and fill up an empty dropper bottle (see How to clean your child’s nose with saline solution (salt water) using a dropper).
- Nasal spray bottle. Choose one that’s appropriate for your child’s age and follow the directions on the bottle.
Nasal spray works better to clear out a baby’s nose and some people find it easier to use.
If necessary, use a nasal suction device or bulb syringe to remove mucus from your child’s nose, being careful to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. A nasal suction device is more effective than a bulb syringe and is less likely to injure your child’s nose, and many parents find it easier to use.
If the skin on your child’s nose is irritated, you can apply an unmedicated ointment (e.g., Vaseline).
When to see a doctor
How to clean your child’s nose with saline solution (salt water) using a dropper
Wash your hands before and after cleaning her nose
- Lay your child on her back.
- Fill a dropper with saline solution (1 ml).
- Gently place the dropper at the nostril entrance. Don’t push it too far in.and empty it into the nostril.
- Repeat for the other nostril.
- Wipe the child’s nose or have her blow her nose by breathing out through it if she’s able to.
- Repeat as necessary.
- Wash the dropper in hot water and wipe dry.
Saline solution (salt water) recipe to treat stuffy noses
There are several recipes for saline solution (salt water) to treat stuffy noses. Here is one:
Add 10 ml (2 level tsp.) of salt and 2.5 ml (½ tsp.) of baking soda to 1 litre (4 cups) of cooled boiled water.
Store this solution in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Take the desired amount out of the refrigerator and wait until it reaches room temperature before using it.