General Health & Wellness • Mar 21, 2013

How do you clear a baby’s nose?

Did you know that babies sneeze to clear their noses?  I think that’s just cool.  It’s also cute – to a point.  As they get bigger, this mechanism for shooting snot out becomes more frightening than cute.  And when there is more snot than a sneeze can handle, it’s stressful and scary.

What do you do when your baby can’t sneeze it out?  So often I see parents who are concerned about nasal stuffiness in their babies – they sound terrible!  They snort, huff, puff, and gurgle their way to keeping a worried parent awake all night.  If you’ve ever tried to use the bulb suction that is given out by the hospital, you know that it’s too big to fit into a baby’s nose.  There’s a reason for that.  The creators, and distributors, don’t want any babies to have an injury to the inside of their nose because it was accidentally put too far inside the nasal passage.  The end result of this is that it is too big to be terribly effective.

nasal-aspiratorWhen our youngest son was a month old he caught a cold that caused him to pour out prodigious amounts of mucous from his nose.  It was the first time that being a pediatrician helped me to be a better mom.  I knew that he was still an “obligate nasal breather,” so I had to keep his nose clear.  In order to do this, I had to hold him with his forehead resting in the crook of my arm with my other hand supporting his chest so that he could sleep with his nose draining onto a towel on the floor.  It was a precarious position and neither one of us got much rest.  He did stop crying, though, and I was grateful for that.  All night I tried to use that darn bulb suction to clear his nose, and it wasn’t helpful in the least.  It just made our son’s nose sore.  Many of the childhood viruses can cause infants’ noses to be blocked so badly that they have to come into the hospital to have suctioning done by nurses and respiratory therapists until they get better.

I’ve recently learned about a device called a Nose Frieda and I wish I had known about it when my boys were little.  I haven’t – I confess – used one, but parents report to me that they work wonderfully.  Check out this picture.


The first time I saw it I had to say, I thought it was gross.  But it turns out there is a filter in the collection device that prevents the mucous from going into your mouth.  Phew!

On a final note, if your child’s nose is congested and they’re working hard to breath, it’s fine to try to clear their nose once or twice, but if things don’t get better, then it’s time to see a doctor.  If your baby is smiling and alert, call your doctor’s office.  If your baby is irritable, sleepy and working hard to breath, then go to the ER right away – that’s a whole different ball of wax.  Here’s a  video link of babies breathing hard for a reference.


  1. We were given a Nose Frieda and it is awesome!!! My son has Downs Syndrome and small airways, so every cold completely blocked his nose and this device works wonders. And he doesn’t mind it the way he hated the bulb syringe!

  2. I remember my mum just sucked the mucous out of my younger brother’s nose when he was congested. I guess that was the low -tech version of the Nose Freida!

  3. We have the Nose Freida, how hard do you suck to remove the mucus? If I can hear the mucus (congestion) in the nose and suck but nothin comes out how do I know it’s ok? First time parent here….wife and I need advice. Thank you!!!

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