Mums on TikTok Are Pouring Nasal Rinse Into Their Kids’ Noses – but Is It Safe to Use?
When it comes to sick kids, you likely have one priority: getting them healthy ASAP. But it’s not always simple to ward off their uncomfortable symptoms and make them feel better.
Home remedies have always been a go-to, but there’s a recent surge in kids’ nasal rinses, specifically on TikTok. You’ve likely seen some of the viral videos showing parents holding their kids over the sink while pouring nasal rinse solution into one nostril, while heaps of snot and mucus pours out the other nostril. It is oddly satisfying to watch and parents swear by the benefits. “I promise you, your baby will feel much better and breathe easier after doing this,” one creator writes in her caption. But what do experts think?
Nasal rinses, which typically involve rinsing your child’s nose with saline, can help keep their passages clear and reduce cold symptoms by clearing out mucus, says Ali Alhassani, MD, a pediatrician and the head of clinical at Summer Health. But before you run to the pharmacy and attempt a nasal rinse for your kids’ latest congestion, there’s a few things you should know to keep them comfortable, safe, and healthy.
What Does a Nasal Rinse Do?
Also known as nasal irrigation, a nasal rinse is when the nasal passages are flushed with a liquid such as salt water or saline to help reduce congestion symptoms from sinusitis, allergies, and the common cold, says Dr. Alhassani. As the name suggests, a nasal rinse works by rinsing out nasal passage of mucus, allergens, and other irritants that cause congestion and sneezing, he explains. Some studies also find that nasal rinsing can help the cells inside the nose work to clear mucus better.
How Do You Use a Nasal Rinse?
To perform a nasal rinse, you essentially need two things: the liquid solution (usually saline water) and a device to deliver the solution, such as a squeeze bottle, bulge syringe, or neti pot. You can also buy pre-filled saline packets at your local pharmacy.
Once you have the solution and delivery device, follow the below instructions, according to Dr. Alhassani.
1. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, per the CDC.
2. Warm the solution slightly by pouring the saline into a clean bowl and microwaving it briefly (start with 5 to 10 seconds). This will make it easier and more comfortable for the child to tolerate, but make sure the saline is not hot.
3. Pour the solution into the squeeze bottle, bulge syringe, or neti pot.
4. Gently bend your child over the sink or shower so they are looking down, with their head to one side so one ear is toward the ceiling.
5. Squirt the solution into one side of their nose, aiming for the back of the head. Do not aim for the top of the head.
6. The solution should flow into one nostril and out the other, but it’s OK if some is swallowed.
7. Have your child blow their nose to get rid of any remaining solution and mucus before repeating all steps on the other side.
8. Thoroughly clean all instruments after each use and continue to use the nasal rinse 1 to 2 times per day while your child is having congestion symptoms.
Sinus Rinse Dangers
A nasal rinse is simple to use, but there are also a few things you should not do in order to keep your child safe and comfortable.
“The most important thing to avoid is using tap water that has not been sterilized or boiled,” says Dr. Alhassani. “This is because there is a small risk that the water can be contaminated with a specific microbe called Naegleria fowleri that can cause very serious infection.” So, to avoid any risk exposure, make sure you use a prepackaged saline solution, or distilled, boiled, or filtered sterile water.
Another pro tip: While there is not necessarily a specific age kids can use a nasal rinse, Dr. Alhassani suggests using nasal saline drops and a suction for infants, since this tends to be a gentler option and there is less risk of injury and/or discomfort during the delivery process.
Can Nasal Rinses Actually Shorten a Cold?
“Nasal rinses are unlikely to shorten the illness, but it can certainly help reduce the cough and congestion which are often the most bothersome symptoms of a cold,” says Dr. Alhassani. And while research suggests nasal rinses can improve sleep quality and soothe a runny nose, throat itching, and cough, just remember that every child is different, so its effectiveness can be highly variable, adds Dr. Alhassani.
Is a Nasal Flush Good For You?
The main benefit of a nasal rinse is that they can alleviate the congestion symptoms of colds, allergies, and sinus infections, says Dr. Alhassani. Plus, for some people (children or adults) who are prone to these symptoms, nasal rinses may even be used to limit developing infection or allergies, but research is still developing on how well these preventative measures actually work, he explains.
Another major bonus of a nasal rinse is that it’s a simple and fairly affordable home remedy to calm pesky congestion symptoms, especially during cold, flu, and allergy season. That said, nasal rinse can be a little scary for younger children. The best approach to handle any fear is to calmly explain to your child what you are going to do, with step-by-step guidance, and let them know it shouldn’t hurt, but may cause a slight burning or tingly sensation, says Dr. Alhassani. Sometimes you can even start with just a few drops so your child can begin to feel what it’s like, practice staying still, and get comfortable with the process, he adds.
How Often Should You Do a Nasal Rise?
It is safe to use a nasal rinse once or twice daily, just remember to clean all equipment after each use, says Dr. Alhassani. While your child should feel some relief relatively quickly after each rinse, if symptoms linger for longer than two weeks, it’s time to visit your pediatrician for an exam, he adds.
If your child has trouble breathing, is less than 2 months old and has a fever (defined as higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), or is experiencing signs of dehydration and consistent vomiting, among other things, you should go to the emergency room, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.