6 Things You Should Never Do To Clear Your Baby's Stuffy Nose, According To Pediatricians

Stuffy noses are no fun — for you, or your baby, as I'm sure you've learned during this horrible cold and flu season. And obviously fixing the problem isn’t as easy as just sticking a tissue up there and telling them to blow — if only, right? There are certain mechanics and “tricks” involved to make sure your baby is comfortable again and not dealing with a stuffy nose. And there are definitely the right ways to go about fixing the issue, and things you should never do to clear your baby’s stuffy nose according to pediatricians.

Dr. S. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Romper that doctor-approved methods of clearing your baby’s stuffy nose includes using nasal saline, a bulb to suction it out, or even a vaporizer. Pediatrician Jarret Patton adds, “Even though they may not like the bulb syringe, it is still safe.”

And as far as the nasal aspiration products like a NoseFrida, I’d say parents may not like that very much either — at least this one. There is not enough safety mechanisms and shields in the world to make me feel less queasy about sucking snot out of my baby’s nose with my mouth. What if it accidentally comes through? I’m gagging just thinking about it. Give me all the poopy diapers and vomit to clean up, but having snot in my mouth is where I draw the line. But I know I’ll do what I have to do if my baby needs me to suck the snot out of his nose. (But only if the hand-held nasal aspirator bulb doesn’t work out.)

Some safe and approved products that have been recommended on a few of the pregnancy message boards I follow include the Little Remedies for Noses brand of saline drops, which can be used for infants, and Boogie Mist, but for babies 1 year old and up. And the NeilMed PediaMist for Small Noses was brought up a couple of times. This one is good for newborns and up, too. And of course, the NoseFrida and Munchkin ClearNose brand nasal aspirators.

As for when you should see a pediatrician, Patton says to definitely go in if your baby seems to have difficulty breathing “and seems to suck in at the ribs while breathing. This is a sign of respiratory distress and should be evaluated by a physician. Additionally, if wheezing noises are heard during respiration, have them evaluated to ensure there is not something more than just nasal congestion."

Otherwise, “it is OK to manage your babies' runny nose if your child is breathing well, eating well, has no fevers, and has a good amount of energy, and the runny nose has been for less than one week,” Ganjian says. However, manage your baby’s runny nose with the suggestions above, and not the following “no-nos” according to pediatricians.

1. Vicks VapoRub


While they do make “BabyRub” for babies 3 months old and up, Ganjian says if you use Vicks in patients under 2 years old, it could potentially increase the amount of snot in your baby’s nose and throat. And nobody wants that.

2Over-The-Counter Nasal Decongestants


Ganjian says to stay away from the Afrin, and Patton says these medicines have not been tested on babies yet and could potentially be very dangerous. They both do recommend regular nasal saline spray since “it has no medicine in it, just some salt,” according to Ganjian.

3Neti Pot


Dr. Gina Posner, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells Romper a Neti Pot would be too forceful for a baby.

And I might add, they can apparently give you brain-eating amoebas (just kidding). Do make sure you clean and sanitize them thoroughly when you use them for yourself, though.

4Your Fingernail


While this should seem like a no-brainer, sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. And if your baby has been screaming for what feels like hours and snotting all over the place, you may just want to stick your finger up there to remove that dried mucus yourself. Ganjian says to not do this because “you have a high chance of causing the nose to bleed.” Leave the nose picking to them when they get older — you don’t need to do it for them now.

Posner adds, "No bobby pins or other objects to try to get out a booger—can cause a laceration or perforation." Ouch.

5Balls Of Tissues


Another one of those "seems like a good, quick fix because I’m stressed" remedies. But Ganjian says, “Do not stick balls of tissues in the babies nose to stop the nose from running. These tissue balls can go up higher into the nose and get stuck.”

This reminds me of the time my cousin Ken inserted a Ninja Turtle vitamin up his nose, on Mother’s Day no less. And his mom, my mom, and I spent the day in the pediatric ER because he got it so high up his nose there was no getting it out. Happy Mother’s Day, Aunt Kitty!

6Nose Jelly


While The Mayo Clinic recommended this remedy for adults, the organization noted it is not safe for children. This might be difficult to get your newborn to do anyway, because it requires you to “snort” the gel up your nose. If we could get them to do that, we’d just get them to blow their nose in a tissue, am I right?

While frustrating, try to keep your cool and stick to using vaporizers, nasal saline sprays, and nasal aspirators to help clear up your baby's stuffy nose. This too shall pass, and if it doesn't, be sure to see your pediatrician and avoid any of the five "don'ts."

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.