How to Correctly Put Saline Drops in an Infant's Nose

Saline drops and sprays, as well as sinus rinses, are a great way to relieve congestion caused by colds and respiratory infections. They help clear out excess mucus in the nasal passages and sinuses and make breathing a little easier.

Person putting saline drops in a baby's nose
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These saline drops are often recommended for nearly everyone because they don't contain any medication. Most pediatricians will recommend saline drops used with a bulb syringe for infants and babies when they are congested.

However, if you have ever dealt with a squirmy, sick infant and tried to put something in her nose or near her face, you know it's no easy task. Trying to figure out how to best administer these drops to give your baby relief from her symptoms can be daunting.

While we can't come to your house and help, we can offer some step by step tips on how to use saline nose drops on your baby.

Steps to Apply Nasal Saline Drops

Make sure you have the proper tools—sterile saline nose drops (can be purchased at any pharmacy or grocery store) and a clean bulb syringe.

  1. Hold your baby upright or at a slightly reclined position in your lap, resting her head back on one of your arms.
  2. Take the saline drops and place 2 or 3 drops in one nostril.
  3. Wait a few seconds to allow the saline to get into the nose.
  4. Take the bulb syringe and squeeze the bulb end closed—pushing the air out of it—while it is pointing away from your baby.
  5. Keeping the bulb squeezed, place the small tip of the bulb syringe in the nostril that you put the saline drops in.
  6. Release the bulb. The suction created when air rushes back into the bulb syringe will suck the mucus and extra saline out of your baby's nose.
  7. Squeeze the bulb syringe into the sink or a cop to expel the mucus inside.
  8. Wait a minute or so before going to the other nostril. This will give you time to calm your child if she upset or crying.
  9. Repeat steps 3 through 7 in the other nostril.

Tips for Using Baby Saline Drops

Here are some additional tips for making the process go smoothly:

  • If you have a particularly frustrated or squirmy baby, it may help to have another adult assist you in keeping the baby's head still or her hands from grabbing you.
  • Use saline drops to clear the baby's nose before feeding or sleeping.
  • Use a warm washcloth or cotton swab to clean off dried, sticky mucus on nostrils.
  • Bulb syringes can be difficult to clean and may harbor bacteria. Be sure to clean your bulb syringe with soap and water often and only expel the air inside when it is not in your baby's nose.
  • Know the signs to watch for to determine if your child could be having difficulty breathing. Since babies have to breathe through their noses, they can have trouble getting enough oxygen when they are sick and the signs are not as obvious as you might think.
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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Chirico G, Quartarone G, Mallefet P. Nasal congestion in infants and children: a literature review on efficacy and safety of non-pharmacological treatments. Minerva Pediatr. 2014;66(6):549-557.

  2. Williams GB, Ross LL, Chandra RK. Are bulb syringe irrigators a potential source of bacterial contamination in chronic rhinosinusitis? Am J Rhinol. 2008;22(4):399-401. doi:10.2500/ajr.2008.22.3193

Additional Reading
  • "Medications: Using Them Safely" KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation.
  • "Coughs and Colds: Medicines or Home Remedies?" KidsDoc Symptom Checker. American Academy of Pediatrics.