Suctioning the Nose with a Bulb Syringe

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It is normal for a baby’s nose to get congested (stuffed up) from time to time. When this happens, you can use nasal saline to thin their mucus and then suction it out with a bulb syringe. Suctioning mucus out of the nose makes it easier for them to breathe, suck, and eat. Do this before feeding them, but only if they seem congested.

You Will Need

  • Bulb syringe
  • Soft tissues
  • Saline or prescribed nose drops
  • Optional – rolled-up soft blanket
  1. To use the bulb syringe, squeeze the air out of the bulb. Keep the bulb squeezed.
  2. Gently place the tip of the squeezed bulb into a nostril.
  3. Let go of the bulb to let the air back into it. This will pull the mucus out of the nose and into the bulb.
  4. Squeeze the mucus out of the bulb and onto a tissue.
  5. Suction the other nostril the same way.
  6. If mucus is too thick to suction, you can thin it with saline or prescribed respiratory drops (see instructions below).
  7. Gently wipe off the mucus around the baby’s nose with tissues to prevent irritation.
  8. Limit suctioning to no more than 4 times each day to avoid irritating the nose.

You Will Need

After Suctioning

Wash the bulb syringe in warm, soapy water after each use. Squeeze soapy water into the bulb and shake to clean out the mucus. Then, squeeze the water out. Repeat this step many times. Rinse the bulb many times by filling it with clear water, then squeezing the water out.

Saline Nose Drops

Saline nose drops can be bought over-the-counter, at a pharmacy or grocery store, or you can make it at home. To make the saline nose drops, you will need:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • Table salt
  • Kitchen measuring spoon
  • Clean jar with cover
  1. Fill a jar with 1-cup warm (not hot) tap water.
  2. Add ¼-teaspoon salt. Stir to dissolve.
  3. Make new solution each time.

How to Put Nose Drops into the Child’s Nose

  1. Lay the baby on their back.Put saline nose drops in the baby's nose.
  2. Put 3 to 4 drops into each nostril using the nose dropper (Picture 1). The nose drops may make the baby sneeze.
  3. After giving the nose drops, hold the baby with their head back for about a minute. This will give the saline time to thin the mucus. Then, suction with the bulb syringe as shown above.
  4. Wash the dropper, jar, and bulb syringe each time after use. Throw away unused saline.
  5. Do not use any other type of medicine nose drops unless prescribed by a health care provider.

Caution: Remember to use saline drops and suction the nose before feeding. If done after feeding, suctioning may cause vomiting (throwing up).

If you have any questions, be sure to ask your child’s health care provider.

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