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Nasal hygiene in babies and young children

Published on August 9, 2023 at 8:00 / Updated on August 29, 2023 at 8:00

Babies and young children do not have the ability to blow their noses effectively. Nasal secretions can therefore accumulate in the nasal passages, especially when the child has a cold. This predisposes them to complications such as middle ear infections. Nasal hygiene involves flushing the nasal cavities with a saline solution to prevent these complications, to make the child more comfortable (when nursing or sleeping), and to reduce the frequency and duration of colds.

Rinses can either be performed with a commercial solution from the pharmacy, or you can prepare your own using the recipe below. If a reusable nasal irrigation device is used, be sure to wash it after each use to avoid any contamination; it is not something that should be shared. The frequency at which the nasal passages should be cleaned varies, and is based on the child's age, time of year, and whether the child has a cold or is congested. The Sainte-Justine University Hospital Centre recommends the following:

For children younger than 3 years or unable to blow their noses effectively:

  • Summer: twice daily;
  • Winter: 4 times daily;
  • Child with a cold or nasal congestion: 5 to 6 times daily.

For children older than 3 years or unable to blow their noses effectively:

  • Summer: once daily;
  • Winter: twice daily;
  • Child with a cold or nasal congestion: 3 to 4 times daily.

Steps for performing a nasal cleanse in babies

  • Lay the baby on his/her side;
  • Place a towel on the surface under the child's nose;
  • Irrigate the nostril that is facing the ceiling with the entire contents of a syringe;
  • Use the following syringes:
    • 3 mL for babies younger than one month;
    • 5 mL for babies that are around 6 months;
    • 10 mL for babies that are around 12 months.
  • Repeat in the same nostril if secretions are still present;
  • Lay the child on his/her other side and repeat the same steps for the other nostril.

Homemade saline solution

You can make your own saline solution, but be sure to comply with the specified ingredients and amounts. Here is a very easy recipe:

Salt (NaCl):10 mL (2 teaspoons)
Baking soda:2.5 mL (½ teaspoon)
Sterile water or boiled water that has cooled until lukewarm:1000 mL (4 cups)

The solution can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 7 days, or for 24 hours at room temperature in an airtight glass container. To avoid a tingling sensation during irrigation, it is suggested to adjust the temperature of the solution so that it is lukewarm.

Frequent handwashing can significantly reduce the spread of infectious diseases.
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