December 21, 2021

How To Help Your Baby or Toddler Clear Their Stuffy Nose

Mucus removal tips from a pediatrician

An adult sitting at a table while holding a child and helping them blow their nose

When your child’s too young to blow their nose, the job of getting out excess mucus from allergies or illness falls to you. (The joys of parenting!)


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

So it’s time to — ahem — “suck it up” and become a mucus removal expert. It’s not a pretty process (or something you thought you’d add to your parental resume), but a job well done will help your child breathe easier and get better rest — and that’s worth it for the whole family.

What’s the best method for clearing your baby’s congestion? “It depends on the child’s age,” says pediatrician Amy Sniderman, MD.

Dr. Sniderman shares her best snot-removal solutions and throws in a tip to help your child learn how to blow their own nose, too!

How to clear a baby’s stuffy nose

“A nose that’s clogged with mucus can make it hard for babies to breathe and eat properly — especially for young babies who breastfeed or eat from a bottle,” Dr. Sniderman says.

Keeping excess mucus in check can also ward off skin infections caused by leaking mucus around your child’s nose.

“The best way to remove it is with a handy baby nose sucker device like a nasal aspirator or Swedish snot sucker,” Dr. Sniderman says.


With a nasal aspirator, you create the suction by squeezing the bulb and then putting it gently in your child’s nose and releasing it. With a Swedish snot sucker, you create the suction with your mouth — but a long, thin tube with a membrane over it stands between you and the larger vial that goes in their nose. You and your baby might not love the process, but it works.

How to help a toddler blow their nose

In young toddlers, a nasal aspirator or Swedish snot sucker is still your best bet for removing excess mucus, Dr. Sniderman says. But have you ever tried to get a toddler to sit still, let alone sit still for mucus extraction? With a little coaching, you can help your older toddler get the hang of blowing their own nose.

“Just hold a tissue over your child’s nose and tell them to close their mouth and pretend to blow out birthday candles or blow bubbles with their nose,” she says. It might take a few tries for your child to understand the concept, so keep practicing. And don’t despair if they don’t catch on right away — it takes some kids longer to learn.

“Some 2-year-olds can blow their nose, but some kids are much older before they can do it,” Dr. Sniderman says. “It’s kind of a coordination thing — they have to be able to close their mouth and blow out their nose.”

Use saline drops and humidifiers to thin out mucus

Regardless of your child’s age, if mucus is too thick to remove, Dr. Sniderman suggests using a few drops of over-the-counter saline nasal spray to help thin it out.

humidifier can also help make mucus removal easier.


Don’t forget to wash up

Whether you’re still at the snot-sucker stage or your child is learning to blow their own nose, remember to wash your hands afterwards (and remind your child to wash theirs, too) — and frequently, in general.

Washing your hands is the best way to keep illness from spreading, Dr. Sniderman says.

And if your baby or toddler is still experiencing congestion, consult with your pediatrician for further guidance.

Related Articles

Female swimmer in the water at edge of a pool
December 1, 2023
Can Exercise Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer?

Physical activity and weight management can minimize your chances of getting the disease

Two people standing in the cold.
November 29, 2023
10 Colds Not To Catch This Winter

The flu, RSV, COVID-19, pneumonia and more typically circulate during cold weather months

Parent breastfeeding baby on bed, against the headboard.
November 27, 2023
Looking for Foods To Increase Your Milk Supply? Think Big Picture

No single food will increase your milk, but an overall healthy diet will help

Parent uses manual baby aspirator to open up nasal passages of baby.
November 22, 2023
Prevent Phlegm in Your Baby’s Throat With a Nasal Aspirator

Keeping your baby’s airways clear of mucus helps with breathing and feeding

Two different vaccines and needles displayed in foreground.
November 22, 2023
Which Vaccines Can You Get at the Same Time?

Getting routine vaccinations together can save you time and may be more effective

Muffins and sweetbreads with frosting on trays at bakery.
November 22, 2023
13 Foods That You Didn’t Know Contain Dairy

Be sure to check the labels of common foods like canned tuna, bread, hot dogs and chocolate

Toddler drinking from a cup while at the table during dinner.
November 21, 2023
Toddler Drinks — What Does the Research Say About These Products?

They aren’t unhealthy, but they’re probably a waste of money

person drinking coffee at computer at night
November 15, 2023
Is It Bad To Drink Coffee Late at Night?

Depending on your sensitivity to caffeine, a late-night cup may be just fine

Trending Topics

group of hands holding different beverages
November 14, 2023
10 Myths About Drinking Alcohol You Should Stop Repeating

Coffee won’t cure a hangover and you definitely shouldn’t mix your cocktail with an energy drink

Person applies moisturizer as part of their skin care routine after a shower.
November 10, 2023
Korean Skin Care Routines: What You Need To Know

Focus on the philosophy — replenishing and respecting your skin — not necessarily the steps

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
November 8, 2023
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try