Cold Season

Father using nasal aspirator for his baby at home in an article about nasal aspirator brain damage
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Are Nasal Aspirators Dangerous? Here's How To Use Them Safely

Cleanliness is key.

by Jacqueline Burt Cote
Originally Published: 

Trying to comfort a baby with a stuffed-up nose is one of the most frustrating things a new parent can face. Naturally, a stuffed up infant can’t breathe well can’t eat or sleep (which means you can't sleep either), but it's not like you can give them an over-the-counter decongestant or a box of tissues. The only options available for helping clear a baby’s stuffy nose are rubber bulb aspirators or straw-like nose aspirators like the NoseFrida. But are baby nostril suckers dangerous? Can nasal aspirators like the NoseFrida cause damage to Baby’s little, stuffy nose?

Can nasal aspirators cause damage if used incorrectly?

Considering that virtually every baby born in a hospital gets sent home with one of those blue rubber bulb syringes, they've got to be pretty safe, right? In a word, yes, nasal aspirators are not particularly dangerous. But, there's still a proper way to use them, and failing to use nasal aspirators like the NoseFrida or a bulb syringe properly could cause problems. Stuffed with gunk or not, those tiny baby noses are still, well, tiny, and they need to be treated gently. Getting too aggressive can result in nosebleeds and swelling, neither of which will make your baby feel much better.

There is also a step you can take before you pull your baby’s snot out to help move it along. “It’s best to use saline before suctioning to loosen the mucus,” Dr. Tanya Altmann, a pediatrician, tells Romper.

“Suctioning a dry nose or too forceful of suction can irritate or injure the delicate skin inside the nose. Suctioning too much can also sometimes cause further swelling and irritation and make it seem like baby is more congested. Try not to suction more than a few times a day. Nasal saline on its own is fine.”

How to use a nasal aspirator safely

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When it’s time for a snot sucking session, put your baby down on his or her back and squirt two to three drops of saline solution into each nostril. Then, after squeezing the bulb to get all the air out, very carefully insert the tip of the aspirator into your baby's nostril and release the pressure (be sure not to go too far up into the nostril!). With any luck, a loud sound will follow and a stream of mucus will be pulled into the bulb. (Also be sure to squeeze that mucus out into a tissue before repeating the process on the other side.) Again, be careful about how far you put the aspirator into your baby’s nostril so you avoid causing damage to the delicate tissues inside their nose.

Be sure to clean your NoseFrida or aspirator properly after each use

Assuming you're using the nasal aspirator in the correct manner, the only other thing you have to worry about is cleaning it after every use. Exact methods for cleaning will vary depending on what type of nasal aspirator you’re using, so be sure to follow the manufacturers’ cleaning instructions carefully after each use.

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Basically, whichever way you choose to de-stuff your baby's nose, be cautious and clean — and everything should be fine. Remember, cold and flu season might feel like it's never going to end, but the day will dawn when your baby can once again breathe through her nose, and you can throw that dang bulb in the trash, or at least store it away until the next outbreak.


Dr. Tanya Altmann, a pediatrician

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