How do I Help a Baby with a Stuffy Nose?

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  • Written By: Kaitlyn N. Watkins
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2019
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A baby with a stuffy nose can be difficult to soothe, but there are several methods that caregivers can try, including running a hot, steamy shower and allowing the baby to breathe in the moisture to loosen the mucous; using a humidifier or vaporizer; and rinsing the nostrils with saline solution. It is very important to take the age into account when dealing with a baby with a stuffy nose, as most medicines and over-the-counter products should never be used on small infants. Always consult with a doctor before attempting to treat symptoms, especially if the baby has a fever or prolonged stuffiness, as these symptoms may indicate a more serious illness.

One very easy method for treating a baby with a stuffy nose is to run a very hot shower until the bathroom is very steamy. Sit in the bathroom with the stuffy baby for approximately 15 to 20 minutes to loosen the baby’s congestion. When the mucous begins to release, use a bulb aspirator to clear the baby’s nostrils. Be sure to remove excess clothing so the baby does not get overheated. Repeat several times per day if necessary while the baby is congested.


A similar method involves running a humidifier or vaporizer in the bedroom of a baby with a stuffy nose while napping or sleeping. Dry air may be the cause of the stuffy nose, and a humidifier or vaporizer will release much-needed moisture into the air. Using a cool mist vaporizer or an ultrasonic humidifier is safer than products with heating elements, to prevent burns. It is very important to keep the reservoirs of these products very clean and to refill with fresh water for each use to prevent contamination and bacteria buildup. It may be possible to add a mentholated vapor solution to the vaporizer or humidifier, but be sure to check the label and consult a physician, as these are not generally recommended for very small children.

Saline solution is also an effective way to clear out the nasal passages of a baby with a stuffy nose. A homemade solution can be made using 1/4 teaspoon (about 1.2 ml) of salt and 1/2 cup (about 118 ml) of water with a sterilized eyedropper, or simply purchase a ready-made solution from a drugstore. Insert the saline into one nostril and wait a few moments before using a bulb aspirator to empty out loosened mucus. Repeat in the other nostril and be sure to sterilize all droppers and aspirators that come in contact with the mucus.

Mentholated creams and rubs have traditionally been used to soothe congestion, but many of these products can be toxic to very small babies when introduced into the bloodstream. Seek the advice of a physician and take the child’s age into consideration before using. Also, check for products designed specifically for babies, as these creams may have a milder formulation that may be safer. When breastfeeding or practicing skin-to-skin contact with a baby with a stuffy nose, try applying the cream or rub to the adult’s chest or breast to make breathing easier for the baby.


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