What Is Nasal Flaring?

Mom putting saline drops in baby's nose.
Mother putting saline drops in baby's nose. Frederic Cirou/PhotoAlto Agency RF Collection/Getty Images


Nasal flaring can be a sign of difficulty breathing in young children. Along with retracting and other signs, nasal flaring may indicate a child is struggling to get enough oxygen. 

What does it look like?

When looking at a child with nasal flaring, you will notice that the nostrils appear to "flare" in and out with each breath. It looks similar to an angry bull. 

Nasal flaring may not be very obvious, but it's important to pay attention and take action if you notice it.


What should I do if I see this?

While nasal flaring may be a sign of difficulty breathing, it can also be seen in young children who have routine nasal congestion. The first thing you should do if you notice your child's nostrils flaring is to try suctioning the nose out with saline drops and a bulb syringe. If the child is old enough, have him blow his nose. Using a drop or two of saline in one nostril, gently suctioning the congestion out, then repeating these steps in the other nostril, may help clear up the nasal flaring. If it does not, contact your doctor or seek medical attention right away. 


"Nasal Flaring." Medical Encyclopedia 10 May 06. Medline Plus National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health. 15 Jan 08.

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