Mother and Baby

How to clear your baby's blocked nose

Section: Baby Health
How to help a baby or toddler's blocked nose

We all know how uncomfortable a blocked nose can be and a stuffy nose can be very unpleasant for your baby, adversely affecting their feeding and disrupting their sleep. 

Although it can be worrying, common colds are very normal in young children as their immune systems are still developing.

According to the NHS, children will get colds far more frequently than adults, and symptoms include a blocked or runny nose, sneezing or a high temperature. 

While Calpol or other appropriate remedies for babies can be bought from your local chemist, there are things you can do at home for natural remedies for nasal congestion.

Home remedies for baby's blocked nose:


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1.    Saltwater

If your baby is under six months old, try putting a few drops of saline into each nostril. You can then use a bulb syringe to remove mucus. This simple home remedy works by thinning the mucus which can help your baby feel more comfortable. It's suitable for babies of all ages, however older babies may get fussy when using the bulb. 
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2. Removing any hard mucus

You might notice your baby's nose looks crusty or sticky, however it can help to clean this away to prevent it blocking the nose. You can clean this with cotton wool and warm water. 
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3. Sit in the bathroom together

If you don't want to buy a vaporizer, sitting in a steamy bathroom for a few minutes with your baby is just as good. 
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4. Keep your baby hydrated

Being hydrated thins mucus. Use the saline steps above to try and clear congestion if your baby is reluctant when feeding. 

How can I help my baby sleep better at night when they have a blocked nose? 

As you know, when you've got a cold, things can seem much worse when lying down, and this is the same for your baby. 

It's not as simple as telling them to blow their nose, and as we know, the safest position for babies is to sleep flat on their back to avoid SIDS, so all we can do as parents is help keep their nose clear until they feel better. 

For more advice on baby sleep safety, visit The Lullaby Trust website here.

Home remedies for your baby's blocked nose

This is a 100 per cent natural solution for blocked noses made from sea water, containing healing sea minerals. Simply tip your baby’s head to the side (not backwards), insert the nozzle into a nostril, and spray once or twice. Suitable from 3 months.  

Tested by Kim Robertson-Hunt, mum to Teddie and Henry; she says: “Sterimar was recommended to me by the nurses in hospital when my youngest was admitted with bronchiolitis. They use it all the time on little noses as the quickest and safest way to clear the blockage and make it easier for little ones to breathe.”

Sterimar was recommended by several mums in our Mumtribe Facebook group too. 

I’m sure we’re all familiar with this little pot of vapour rub from our own childhoods, but do note that it’s only suitable from the age of two years. This balm containing eucalyptus oil aims to help with congestion and colds – an old wives’ tale says to apply this to the soles of feet if you have a cough.

Tested by Sophie Knight, mum to Eli (3); she says: “We all know and love Vicks and it’s no surprise it’s a best-seller. The warming reaction on your chest makes you feel instantly a bit clearer in the nostrils. When Eli was born I didn’t realise it wasn’t suitable for babies, but luckily read the label properly, so please pay attention to the age restrictions.”

Plug this into a mains socket and for up to eight hours your baby’s room will fill with the scent of lavender and chamomile. Slot in a refill pad (be careful and wash your hands) each night, and it’ll help your little one sleep easier. It’s also a nightlight that you can use without the refill pads as just a light.

Tested by Sophie Knight, mum to Eli (3); she says: “I swear by this when Eli has a heavy head cold. The scent fills the room and is really heady; I thought it would be too overpowering for him but he has a must more restful sleep when this is plugged in. It’s great that it’s a nightlight too.”

The things we do for our children… This nasal aspirator is also knows as the Snot Sucker, helping to physically clear your baby’s blocked nose of mucus. It has a special filter meaning you won’t suck back anything, thankfully. Put the nozzle at the entrance to baby’s nostril – it doesn’t have to go inside – then suck gentle on the mouthpiece. It’s suitable for use from birth, and there’s also a handy video online showing you how to use it.

New from Colief, Breathe Easy is a natural solution for blocked noses, containing eucalyptus and menthol. This vapour rub stick is easy to apply; it comes in a tube applicator so you just apply directly to your little one’s chest or back (the best way to describe it is like a Pritt Stick). It’s suitable from three months.

Tested by Sophie Knight, mum to Eli (3); she says: “This is a great innovation as it removes all the mess and fuss of a normal pot of balm. Eli likes to apply this himself, as it’s a fun game to rub the tube over his chest himself. The scent is ideal for blocked noses but not overwhelming for little ones.”

Saline drops or spray are great for unblocking little noses. Suitable for use from birth, this is a saline solution that you spray up into your baby’s nose to help clear congestion, effectively washing away any mucus. Lay your baby down and turn their head to the side, insert the nozzle into a nostril and spray.

Tested by Sophie Knight, mum to Eli (3); she says: “This isn’t the easiest option, as it’s pretty uncomfortable for babies and toddlers – Eli recognises the spray and refuses these days. However, it does help to physically clear snot from the nose.”

A different approach is to have an aromatherapy diffuser in your little one’s bedroom, and use an essential oil such as eucalyptus oil.

Diffusers work by vibrating the water into a mist, so they’re not the same as a humidifier, but will fill the room with the scent of your chosen essential oil.

Tested by Sophie Knight, mum to Eli (3); she says: “The minute Eli shows a hint of a cold or sniffle, I pop some eucalyptus oil into a diffuser in his room when he goes to bed. It’s subtle and not overpowering, and I do think it helps him breathe easier in his sleep. I have one in my room now too, for the winter months.”

Olbas Oil gives light relief from congestion, colds, and blocked sinuses. Place a couple of drops on a hanky or muslin, but be sure to place away from where baby can get the oil onto their fingers or in their eyes. Suitable from 3 months.

Tested by mum Chelsea Abbott, from our Mumtribe Facebook group; she says: “I use Olbas Oil on bedsheets, in a humidifier and Olbas rub on a bib too. Only gives light relief though.”

Do I need to visit the GP for my baby's blocked nose?

Although colds aren't normally serious, you should visit your GP if you notice any of the following: 

  • The cold has not cleared up within three weeks 
  • Your child is under three months old and has a temperature of 38 degrees, or 39 degrees if they are between 3-6 months 
  • Your child is struggling to breathe
  • They are coughing up blood
  • They have a persistent sore throat 
  • They seem to be getting worse rather than better 

Popular reads 

  • Author: Sophie Knight Sophie Knight
  • Job Title: Contributing Editor

Sophie is a journalist and mum of one, and previously edited before moving on to write about family cars for - now Sophie is Commercial Content Editor for M&B, Closer, Heat, Empire, Yours, Garden News, and 

She is passionate about raising awareness around postnatal depression and is a Mental Health First Aider.

Sophie studied History at the University of Sheffield and has been in journalism for 16 years. 

Other contributors

Lorna White - Digital Writer

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