How to Use Saline Nose Drops in Babies

Cleaning baby's nose. Jessica Peterson/Getty Images

Saline drops and sprays, as well as neti pots and sinus rinses, are a great way to relieve congestion caused by colds and respiratory infections. They help clear out excess mucus in the nasal passages and sinuses and make breathing a little easier.

These saline drops are often recommended for nearly everyone because they don't contain any medication. Most pediatricians will recommend saline drops used with a bulb syringe for infants and babies when they are congested.

However, if you have ever dealt with a squirmy, sick infant and tried to put something in her nose or near her face, you know it's no easy task. Trying to figure out how to best administer these drops to give your baby relief from her symptoms can be daunting.

While we can't come to your house and help, we can offer some step by step tips on how to use saline nose drops on your baby.

What To Do

  1. Make sure you have the proper tools - sterile saline nose drops (can be purchased at any pharmacy or grocery store) and a clean bulb syringe.
  2. Hold your baby upright or at a slightly reclined position in your lap, resting her head back on one of your arms.
  3. Take the saline drops and place 2 or 3 drops in one nostril.
  4. Wait a few seconds to allow the saline to get into the nose.
  5. Take the bulb syringe and squeeze the bulb end closed - pushing the air out of it - while it is pointing away from your baby.
  6. Keeping the bulb squeezed, place the small tip of the bulb syringe in the nostril that you put the saline drops in.
  1. Release the bulb. The suction created when air rushes back into the bulb syringe will suck the mucus and extra saline out of your baby's nose.
  2. Squeeze the bulb syringe into the sink or a cop to expel the mucus inside.
  3. Wait a minute or so before going to the other nostril. This will give you time to calm your child if she upset or crying.
  1. Repeat steps 3 through 7 in the other nostril.

Helpful Hints

If you have a particularly frustrated or squirmy baby, it may be help to have another adult assist you in keeping baby's head still or her hands from grabbing you.

Use saline drops to clear baby's nose before feeding or sleeping.

Use a warm washcloth or cotton swab to clean off dried, sticky mucus on nostrils.

Bulb syringes can be difficult to clean and may harbor bacteria. Be sure to clean your bulb syringe with soap and water often and only expel the air inside when it is not in your baby's nose.

Know the signs to watch for to determine if your child could be having difficulty breathing. Since babies have to breathe through their noses, they can have trouble getting enough oxygen when they are sick and the signs are not as obvious as you might think.


"Coughs and Colds: Medicines or Home Remedies?" KidsDoc Symptom Checker 5 Jul 11. American Academy of Pediatrics.

"Medications: Using Them Safely". Medicine Nov 11. KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation. 

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