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Nasal Saline Rinse

What is a nasal saline rinse?

A nasal saline rinse is a treatment that you can do at home to relieve symptoms of nasal congestion. The sinuses behind the nose are hollow spaces that help warm and add moisture to the air you breathe. Infections and allergies can cause the lining of the sinuses to swell.

Swelling and mucus may block the sinuses and be painful. Mucus draining down the throat can trigger wheezing in children with asthma.

The nasal rinse saline solution is salt water. Nasal saline rinses help keep the nose, sinus passages, and throat clear of mucus. Nasal saline spray is not the same as a nasal saline rinse. The spray will add moisture to the air your child breathes, but will not clear the sinuses.

Recipe for Normal Saline Solution

It is very important to use fresh saline solution because bacteria can grow in saline and bacteria can cause infections. If you are buying a saline solution, buy individual-use packs only.

To make your own saline solution:

Mix 8 ounces of water (1 measuring cup) with 1/2 teaspoon of non-iodized table salt and a pinch of baking soda. It’s best to use lukewarm distilled, filtered or previously boiled water. Having the right mix helps prevent irritation.

Make a fresh supply of saline solution every time you do a nasal rinse.

How nasal saline rinses are done depends on the age and comfort level of the child.

Instructions for young child who can’t blow his nose

The equipment you need:

  • Bulb syringe, suction bulb, or nasal saline rinse bottle
  • Saline solution (see recipe above)
  • Plastic dropper

Put 10 drops (0.6 ml) of normal saline in one nostril at a time, using a plastic dropper. Caution: For children under 1 year old, use 2 drops at a time. Use a bulb syringe to suction out the mucus and saline. Repeat the procedure if necessary.

It is important to clean the bulb syringe daily. To clean it, draw hot soapy water into the syringe, shake, and squeeze. Rinse thoroughly with clear tap water and store the syringe with the tip down to drain completely.

Instructions for young child who can blow his nose

If your child is able to blow his or her nose but needs some coaching and help, use the following method.

The equipment you need:

  • Nasal spray bottle
  • Saline solution
  • Tissues

Partially fill the nasal spray bottle with normal saline. Gently squeeze the solution into one nostril. Have your child sniff and blow his nose. Repeat with the other nostril.

Instructions for Older Children:

Children who do not need help can try one of the following methods.

  • Method 1: Bend over a sink. Place some saline solution into the palm of the hand. Sniff the solution into one nostril and then blow the nose gently. Repeat with the other nostril.
  • Method 2: Fill a bulb syringe or nasal saline rinse bottle with solution. Lean over a sink with the head tilted slightly forward and the chin tilted slightly toward the chest. Insert the syringe tip just inside one nostril and gently squeeze the bulb, releasing the solution into the nose until the saline solution comes out of the other nostril. Have your child lean forward to reduce the amount of solution draining down the back of the throat. Blow the nose gently and repeat the process with the other nostril.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2014.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2013-10-29
Last reviewed: 2012-03-05
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©2014 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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