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Doctor Betti
Dr. Betti Hertzberg Ressler is a Board Certified Pediatrician on staff at Miami Children's Hospital. Dr. Hertzberg developed the toilet training video "Let's Go Potty." She is the co-author of "The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies for Children."

Stuffy nose

Question: Our babies nose gets heavy mostly during night and sometimes he cannot breath and wakes up. We are now trying to clean the nostrils with salt water (pharmaceutically called physiologic serum) but there is nothing getting out. What else to use or to do? Oh, we also have a nose pump for babies but it only gets out small quantities of mucus. - Gabriel

Answer: Babies are obligate nose breathers. This means that they have not yet learned how to mouth breath when having nasal congestion. They obviously cannot blow their nose either....enter A FUSSY BABY!

Normal saline solution (physiologic saline) is simply a dilute solution of salt and water. It is probably the best nasal decongestant for babies because it acts locally in the nasal passages without systemic side effects. It's best not to give a baby ANY MEDICATION without checking with your pediatrician first.

Placing a few drops of normal saline into one nostril at a time followed by gentle suction with your nasal bulb will slowly help loosen and remove mucus that is present. Even if you don't get any mucus out in the beginning, the normal saline drops will loosen thick secretions. Nasal secretions should remain clear. If your baby develops a fever, decrease in appetite, mucus turns yellow, green (or any color), or any unusual behavior, please contact your baby's pediatrician. If you are unsure of how to suction, have the office nurse or pediatrician demonstrate.

Remember to clean the bulb suction daily. Germs can grow very easily inside the rubber bladder. Vinegar and water 50/50 mixture is fine.

Also see:

  • What is the cause of ITP and is there anything that can prevent it from recurring?
  • Can a pediatrician comfortably prescribe and manage ADHD medication or is it better suited to a psychiatrist?
  • Ask Dr. Betti your questions

    This information is not intended to be a substitute for visiting your pediatrician. If you or your child has specific concerns, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.



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