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Nasal hygiene in babies and young children

Published on June 5, 2024 at 8:00 / Updated on June 21, 2024 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. Some parents use it as a preventive measure, while others use it to clear a stuffy nose.

If the child presents symptoms of ear pain or if their condition does not improve, consult your health care professional.

Steps for performing a nasal cleanse in babies

  • Place your baby on their side or their back.
  • Place a washcloth on the surface under the child's head.
  • Irrigate by emptying the contents of a 3 mL syringe the upper nostril if the baby is on their side, or either nostril if the baby is on their back.
  • Repeat in this nostril until your child's nasal passage is clean.
  • Repeat for the other nostril, after turning your baby over if on their side.
  • From the age of 6 months, you can do these steps with your child sitting on you, head upright.

Steps for performing a nasal cleanse in children 2 years of age and older

From the age of 2, the nasal cleanse can be done with a squeezable bottle (e.g., Sinus Rinse) or a Neti pot.

  • Have the child stand with their head over a sink or in the shower, with their head bent forward and tilted down;
  • Ask the child to tilt their head slightly to the left;
  • Irrigate the right nostril with approximately 60-120 mL;
  • Ask the child to breathe normally through their mouth;
  • Repeat in the same nostril if secretions are still present;
  • Have your child blow the nose gently to prevent the solution from blocking the ears and causing discomfort;
  • Repeat the process on the other side with their head tilted towards the right;
  • Adjust the head position so the solution does not go down the back of the throat or into the ears.

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.

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