Clear Your Baby's Nose with a Bulb Syringe

Medically reviewed by Karen Richardson Gill, MD, FAAP on March 24, 2016Written by Kristeen Cherney

Bulb Syringe

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When your baby gets a cold, you want nothing more than to make their stuffy nose go away.

However, unlike adults with stuffed noses, you can’t use cold medications for infants. In fact, the United States Food and Drug Administration deems children’s cold medicine as unsafe for those under the age of 2.

Since many of us are so accustomed to drugstore therapies for colds and other ailments, this piece of advice can seem pretty disheartening for parents contending with infant stuffed noses. Still, despite the seeming ease of use of cold medications, there are actually much safer (and cheaper!) ways to get rid of your little one’s stuffed nose.

Clearing your baby’s nose with a bulb syringe can quickly ease their symptoms without the risks that medications pose. A syringe can also help alleviate stuffiness from allergies, though these are rare in infants. The key is learning how to use these safely and effectively.

Why You Need a Bulb Syringe

A bulb syringe is an easy and safe method of nasal cleaning. While it can also be used in older children and adults, it’s especially helpful in babies because they can’t take decongestants and other ingredients found in common cold medicines.

Aside from safety concerns, bulb syringes offer immediate relief that medications can’t. Removing excess mucus from your baby’s nose will likely make them less fussy, and they will also be more comfortable during feedings and playtime.

What You’ll Need

The first item you need is a quality bulb syringe. These are available at drugstores, supermarkets, and big box stores. While some versions are extremely low in cost, many of the cheaper types of bulb syringes can’t be thoroughly cleaned out. This can lead to mold and mildew growth, which you certainly don’t want around your baby!

Another common issue with cheaper bulbs is that they have longer suctions that don’t have safety guards, which can lead to potential injuries.

Keeping these points in mind, you might consider spending a few dollars more on a quality bulb that has an opening on the bottom for cleaning, as well as a safety guard on the tip.

The BoogieBulb is reusable, cleanable, and helps you avoid the potential mold and mildew issues.

Aside from the syringe itself, you will also need:

Bulb Syringe Instructions

These step-by-step instructions will help you comfortably and easily clear baby’s nose.

1. Get Comfortable

The first step in using the bulb syringe is to get your baby comfortable. Place them on their back on a rolled up towel for head support, or hold them in one arm. If it seems easier, you can also have them sit in their baby chair in a reclining position.

2. Squeeze the Bulb

Squeeze the air completely out of the bulb syringe, and gently place the tip inside one nostril. Slowly unsqueeze the bulb, releasing air back into it. As the bulb inflates, the syringe will take mucus out of your baby’s nose. Squeeze contents onto a clean tissue, and then repeat on the other side. If the tip has residue, you might consider cleaning it with rubbing alcohol before using in the other nostril.

3. Clean the Bulb

Once you’re done with the process, clean the bulb inside and out with hot water and soap. Follow up with rubbing alcohol to ensure the bulb is completely disinfected.

Extra Tips

You may find it easier to use a bulb syringe in infants, compared to children closer to the age of 2. In fact, for older kids, it can be difficult to hold still. Plus, the syringe might appear downright scary. It’s important to keep your calm in situations like these and to explain to your child that the syringe will help them feel better.

If your child moves around too much, you might consider taking a break and trying again in a little bit. Forcing the bulb syringe will only pose a risk for injury.

When to See a Doctor

As in adults, there isn’t really any cure for the common cold. We only take medicines to alleviate the temporary symptoms while our bodies are busy getting rid of the virus.

If your baby’s cold symptoms persist longer than a few days, you might consider checking in with a doctor. You’ll also want to make an appointment should the symptoms worsen, or if your baby develops:

  • a high fever
  • more fussiness or sleepiness than usual
  • persistent diarrhea

Remember that the only safe way to get rid of congestion in your baby is with natural methods like the bulb syringe. With your doctor’s OK, you may be able to give your baby ibuprofen or acetaminophen for pain, as needed. Always check with a pediatrician if you aren’t sure about which treatment methods to use.

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