What Can You Give a Child for a Stuffy Nose?

Medically Reviewed on 8/12/2022
child stuffy nose
If your child is miserable with a stuffy nose, here are nine ways to relieve your little one’s nasal congestion

Nasal congestion can be a miserable experience for your little one. Most of the time, a stuffy nose is caused by allergies or upper respiratory viral infections. 

There is little evidence that cold medicines such as over-the-counter decongestants work to treat a child’s cold. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend giving OTC medications to kids under the age of 4 because they can cause serious side effects such as irregular heartbeats. For children between ages 4-6, these medicines should only be used as recommended by a pediatrician.

Here are nine ways to relieve your child’s stuffy nose at home.

9 ways to relieve nasal congestion in your child

1. Remove potential allergens

Make sure your house is free of mold, strong scents, or essential oils. Some kids are allergic to pet dander or pollen, so keep your windows closed and vacuum your house regularly.

2. Use a nasal bulb or aspirator

If your child is still an infant or a toddler, you can use an infant nasal bulb or aspirator to gently suck mucus from their nose.

3. Give them nasal saline drops

You can use a syringe to inject saline drops into your child’s nose to loosen up the mucus. Do this every few hours to help clear up nasal passages, thin the mucus, and shrink swollen tissues.

4. Run a cool-mist humidifier

You can place a cool-mist humidifier near your child’s bed and run it at nighttime. This will help loosen mucus and relieve your child’s nasal congestion.

5. Run a hot shower

Run a hot shower and let your child stand near it so they can inhale the steam. Since steam can burn your child’s skin or blur their vision, make sure you stay with them. 

6. Encourage your child to blow their nose

After you have added moisture to your child’s nose with nasal saline or humidifiers, encourage them to blow their nose to clear up their nasal passage. This is only recommended for older children who are able to do so.

7. Apply petroleum jelly

Blowing their nose often can cause your child’s skin to become dry and chapped. Applying petroleum jelly over their nostrils acts as a moisturizer and can prevent chapping.

8. Give them plenty of fluids

Give your child warm broth and other drinks to make sure they stay hydrated.

Chicken soup in particular is an excellent home remedy for a stuffy nose in children because it aids in thinning mucus and congestion. 

9. Avoid smoking

Avoid smoking around your child, as tobacco smoke can irritate the inner lining of their nose.


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When to seek medical help

Sometimes, nasal congestion may not resolve easily or on its own. If your child’s condition worsens, it may be best to seek medical help.

Visit the nearest emergency room or call 911 if your child:

  • Has difficulty breathing
  • Starts coughing suddenly after having food
  • Coughs with bluish discoloration of the skin
  • Is unable to talk or eat

Visit your child’s pediatrician if your child has:

If your child gets frequent nasal congestion due to allergies, your child’s pediatrician can help confirm a diagnosis and initiate treatment accordingly.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/12/2022
"Help for a Child with a Cold." <https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=help-for-a-child-with-a-cold-1-2432>.