Eleven Remedies To Clear An Infant’s Congested Nose


Crying baby? Decreased feeding? Trouble sleeping?

Sounds familiar? Well, we’ve all been there.

A cranky baby in the middle of the night means another sleepless night and another tired day for you.

Read More: Nose Bleed In Kids: Prevention and Home Remedies

And the reason?

Plain old, stuffy nose.

Pediatricians say that common cold and congested noses are more common in infants than in any other age group. This is probably because their immune system is still developing and their noses are very small. So, even a little swelling or excess mucus can block the nose.


So, what causes a congested nose in babies?

Congested Nose

The most common causes of nasal congestion in infants are:

  • Dry air
  • Irritants
  • Viral infections like common cold
  • Acid reflux

Most of the time, a congested nose is nothing to worry about. But sometimes, it may be a cause of concern. In case of doubt, it is important to visit a doctor.

Signs you should be concerned about:

  • Cold that doesn’t clear in two weeks.
  • Temperature of more than 38 degree Celsius in a child of less than 3 months.
  • Temperature of more than 39 degree Celsius in a child of 3 to 6 months.
  • Child struggling to breathe
  • Persistent sore throat
  • Cold seems to worsen instead of getting better
  • Stuffed nose is accompanied by swelling of forehead, eyes, side of nose or cheek.
  • Baby is extremely fussy or seems to be in pain.

Immediately visit a doctor if you notice any of these symptoms.

Ways to unclog the infant’s congested nose.

1. Saline nasal drops or sprays

Extremely safe nasal drops for the infant, the saline nasal drops help to loosen the dried crusted mucus and moistens the nasal cavity. The easiest way to use this is:

  • Slightly tilt the head backwards. Take care not to force the movement.
  • Use 2-3 drops in each nasal cavity
  • Keep the head in that position for 30- 45 seconds.
  • Wipe the excess spray that comes out of the nose.

The baby may sneeze out the drops. Don’t worry, some of the solution still remains inside and provides the required relief.

These can be used as many times as required. Using them a few minutes before feeding makes it easier for the baby to feed.

2. Bulb syringe or nasal aspirator

This is a simple instrument with a small tube attached to a rubber bulb. Make sure you buy the one made for baby’s tiny nostrils. This is used for sucking the mucus out of the nostrils. It is safe and very effective. It is best used with babies under 6 months of age as babies older than that get a little fuzzy on using it. Using it is simple.

  • Lay the baby on its back
  • Squeeze the bulb to force the air out.
  • Now, insert the tube in the nostril, still squeezing the rubber bulb
  • Once inside the nostril, release the bulb. The mucus gets sucked in.
  • Squeeze the mucus out onto a tissue, wipe the tube and repeat in the other nostril.

Replace the bulb of the aspirator every month to prevent infections.

The combination of bulb syringe with saline nasal spray works best. The saline loosens the mucus and the nasal aspirator pulls it all out.

3. Keep the baby hydrated

Dry nose and dry air are amongst the leading causes of nasal congestion. Nose is one of the first organs to be affected in a dehydrated child. Keeping the child hydrated will not only lead to less nasal congestions but it may also treat the ongoing congestion. An infant below the age of 6 months should be breastfed or given formula regularly. If the feeding time has shortened due to nasal congestion, the frequency of feeding should be increased. Above the age of six months, children can be given water to keep them hydrated.


4. Sit in the steam

Steam helps in loosening the mucus and removing it. Steam up the bath and sit with your kid in the steam for a few minutes. It is not recommended to leave the child alone in the bath. Keep the baby away from hot water as it can scald him.

5. Cool air humidifiers

Dry air stuffs up the baby’s nose by drying the mucus, creating crusty plugs in the nostrils. Cool air humidifiers keep the air moist and the nose congestion free. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping the cool air humidifiers several feet away from the baby’s bed. It is also recommended to clean the machine regularly to prevent the growth of molds.

6. Change sleeping positions

Using a towel below the crib mattress to slightly elevate the head of the infant helps in keeping the nose congestion free during sleep. It is not advised to use a pillow due to the risk of SIDS. Sleeping in upright position or in the lap also helps.

7. Remove the crusty, hard mucus

The dried off mucus which forms crusts in the nostrils and sticks there is the worst. As the baby does not yet know how to blow the nose, it is all the more important to clean the hard mucus away.

  • Take a clean cotton swab.
  • Dip it in lukewarm water.
  • Gently wipe the area of the nostrils with this wet swab

8. Onion

A raw sliced onion is usually not the first thing you’d like to keep in your toddler’s room but it may prove to be just the thing you need. The sulfur content draws out mucus and fluids in the body loosening a stuffy nose. There are no side effects except the odor.

9. Breast milk

The simplest and the most natural solution to any problem related to your infant is breast milk.

  • Pour 1-2 drops of breast milk in each nostril.
  • Lay the baby on their tummy or hold them upright.
  • Wait for a minute or two. The milk will drain along with the mucus.
  • Gently wipe the nose and the drained milk with a soft cloth.

10. Eucalyptus oil

Eucalyptus oil is a natural decongestant. Apply a few drops of eucalyptus oil in a clean muslin cloth and keep it beside the baby while sleeping.

11. Keep the child away from irritants

Irritants such as cigarette smoke, smog, pollutants and other environmental particles may be the cause of nasal congestion. As the young child is delicate, it is advised to keep the infant away from such irritants.


The US food and drug administration released an advisory on the use of drugs in children. According to it, no cough and cold medications should be given to children less than 2 years of age. Even after that drugs must be given only as per advised by the doctor at least up till 4 years of age.

Probiotics may be given to boost immunity after 6 months under the guidance of a doctor.

Stay informed, stay healthy!