August 23, 2016 4 min read

Babies breathe through the nose before they comfortably breathe through their mouths, so a blocked nose is of far more concern for newborns than it is for children or adults. In fact, a small infant will insist on breathing through the nose, even when it is obviously blocked. Being able to clear a newborn’s blocked nose is therefore critical, particularly when important functions like feeding and sleeping are affected.

What causes a baby to have a blocked nose

A newborn’s blocked nose is usually caused by infection, allergy or post-infection inflammation, e.g. sinusitis. Given this range of possibilities it is important to find out what is causing the blocked nose of your newborn before you try to clear it.

Common cold or virus

We must remember that babies haven’t been on this earth for long! Their immune systems are still developing, and the world is full of bugs and infections. An baby is likely to suffer anywhere between 4 to 10 colds in her or his first year.

Signs that your baby may be coming down with a cold or virus are as follows:

  • the baby has a runny nose and is congested
  • initially, there is clear discharge from the nose, which then thickens and turns yellow or green
  • possibly sneezing or coughing, red eyes and a croaky voice
  • the blocked nose is accompanied by a low-grade fever


Signs of a baby suffering an allergy are:

  • irritated, itchy, red and watery eyes
  • persistent sneezing
  • possibly coughing or itchy skin
  • clear discharge from the nose
  • the baby has a stuffy nose at night when trying to sleep


Sinusitis only appears after an infection that has lasted longer than two weeks, or less commonly, an allergy. Signs include:

  • a persistent low-grade fever
  • infected mucus
  • postnasal drip, sometimes resulting in either a sore throat, bad breath, nausea or vomiting
  • swollen eyes
  • fatigue and irritability
  • generally no fever

How to treat your baby’s blocked nose

If your baby’s stuffy nose is caused by a cold or flu, you cannot cure it; however, you can treat the symptoms to make the baby as comfortable as possible. There are several options to investigate.

Saline sprays or drops

Saline can give some relief, helping the newborn to breath more easily. The saline solution is a little bit similar to nasal irrigation, or a mini sinus rinse, helping to thin and loosen the mucus, easing congestion. However, with a newborn, only a very, very small amount of saline can be used, and their results may be limited.

Nasal aspirators

Little babies aren’t capable of blowing their nose, which is why they are solely reliant on you for help. If there is an infected discharge, you will have to remove it. There is a clever little device known as a nasal aspirator (also known a little less elegantly as a “snot sucker” or “baby nose sucker”) that can lend a helping hand. This device uses suction to draw the mucus away from the baby’s nose in as little as 30 seconds. Agreed, this is not a pleasant procedure, so any means of prevention is better than cure. However, if you find yourself needing help, there are plenty of aspirators on the market, and they are cheap, easy and relatively effective.

A nasal aspirator will help clean up the symptoms, but they won’t help to calm down the nasal passages or break down the mucus.

Warm baths

Soothing, steamy baths or showers are almost everyone’s best friend – particularly for those with a newborn with a congested nose. Frequent bathing and the resulting warm, steamy air will help decongest the baby’s nose. Just make sure the water is an acceptable temperature for babies.

Steam Vaporiser

Vaporisers (or baby humidifiers) are also a wonderful invention for anyone with a newborn. Warm, moist air can help clear the sinuses as well as minimise coughing and irritation.

Salt therapy

Salt therapy is a safe, natural, medically approved treatment that involves inhaling tiny amount of dry salt which cleanses the airways to relieve inflammation, congestion and irritations.

A salt therapy device, such as the Salin Plus Salt Therapy Device is invaluable when treating a baby’s stuffy nose. The device not only purifies the air, conveniently removing dust and pollens, and allowing the newborn to breathe more easily, but it also emits tiny salt particles, providing the cleansing, therapeutic benefits of dry salt therapy. These salt particles help decongest sinus and nasal cavities, including the middle ear canal, lungs and throat. As the particles of salt emitted is so small (less than 0.1g per day), the device is safe to use for newborns.

We recommend the device is used every night while the baby is sleeping. However, if preferred, you can run a salt therapy device during the daytime to maximise the benefits.

If your baby’s blocked nose is not clearing after two weeks, please seek advice from your doctor.