In autumn, with the changes in temperature and the arrival of the first colds, we meet again with the colds.
The first symptom that we usually observe are nasal secretions, which in older children and adolescents generally only carry a few days of discomfort, but in infants and young children, the Nasal congestion goes beyond simple discomfort.
Despite being a mild symptom, the fact that babies only breathe through the nose makes a cold quite annoying when plugging the nose due to the presence of mucus and inflammation of the mucosa. Inhaling through the nose is more costly, and the consequence is that diet and sleep are affected: They drop the breast or teat from the bottle, they have a harder time sleeping because they usually make noise. The result is that they are more irritable and uncomfortable.
Babies and young children cannot breathe through their mouth, they use only their nose. For this reason it is important to keep your nose as clear as possible to facilitate breathing.
One of the most recommended guidelines by pediatricians and physical therapists to make the nose as clear as possible is nasal washing, since they are a simple, safe and relatively well-tolerated treatment for most children.
What will we achieve with nasal washes?
- Remove mucus by clearing the nostrils.
- Humidify the mucosa.
- Reduce inflammation of the mucous membranes that are thicker from the cold.
- Clean nasal passages of pollen, dust and other debris.
- Helps prevent sinus infections (sinusitis).
There are different studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of nasal washes with saline to reduce nasal symptoms during the acute phase of the cold or flu and reduce the complications that may arise. It has also been shown that in addition to relieving the symptoms of nasal infections also reduces the use of medications.
How can we do a nasal wash?
We propose some tips to make it easier for you to do them at home:
- With the baby or small child well supported, lying down (face up or face down, as you are more comfortable) and with the head slightly tilted, we will pour about 1.5-2 ml (half of the single-dose ampoule) of saline into the hole above. If it is on its back, then we will sit it to favor the expulsion of secretions. After the maneuver we will repeat the same operation in the other nostril. It is important that this does not become torture.
- With the help of a handkerchief or gauze we are removing the secretions that come out. We have to take into account that they may be swallowed, it is normal, they were expelled later for the feces
- If the nose is very obstructed, we can humidify it first by pouring a few drops of saline and massaging the nose.
- The best time to do nasal hygiene is before taking them in babies and before going to sleep.
- We can take advantage of the bath time to perform the nasal wash. The wetter air in the bathroom makes the mucus softer, facilitating its expulsion.
- Nasal washes are more tolerated when the nasal serum is at room temperature or as close as possible to the baby's temperature.
- For older children and co-workers, a good position is sitting with the head cocked to the side and slightly bent forward.
- It is normal for the child to cry or not like it, but with practice they will tolerate it better and learn that it later helps them breathe better.
In the scientific literature there is no clear consensus on the position in which we should place the baby or young child. The most extended position is the one we told you before, lying down (face up or face down, as we hold better) and with your head on one side. Particularly, due to the baby's anatomy, I advise you to tilt the head in younger children, slightly leaning it back. With this, what we are trying to achieve is also dragging the mucus located in the back (which is where it is most often installed in babies when spending a lot of time lying down) and preventing the serum from going to the Eustachian tubes.
The most important thing is to have the small subject but as relaxed as possible and that he and we are as comfortable as we can since it is a maneuver that we will have to repeat several times throughout the first years, until they learn to blow your nose.
What can we do nasal washings with?
In pharmacies we have two types of saline dispensers:
- Physiological serum:
It is a solution of 0.9% of sodium chloride in water. There are no medications, so we can do nasal washes as many times a day as necessary. We can find them in single-dose 5 ml, and some brands already market them with a nasal adapter for use with younger children. Its advantages, being of a single use, it is not necessary to wash them and its composition means that it can be used from birth. The problem is that we have to control the force with which we administer it. It is very difficult to harm them, but on the contrary, we may be too careful and not be able to sufficiently drag mucus.
- Sea water spray:
There are several brands on the market and its composition is natural seawater. Unlike whey, they also have all the minerals in sea water (calcium, potassium, magnesium, potassium) that can help us maintain mucosa well. We have two types of sea water:
– Hypertonic: the concentration of sodium chloride is higher, from 2'3%. This makes it advisable DO NOT use on newbornYes, but instead it is better when the mucus is thicker. If we use it too much it can dry out.
We also have the secretion aspirators. The Spanish Association of Pediatrics recommends us limit its use to once or twice a day, since it dries out the nasal mucosa and can cause unpleasant sensations in the ears. We will only use it if there is a lot of mucus to suck, and better after nasal hygiene.
Normally with nasal washes we improve the well-being of the little ones, but sometimes it is not enough ... We leave you two last tips to facilitate your breathing:
- To facilitate breathing while he sleeps we can raise the headboard out of bed by putting a cushion under the mattress or boards under the crib head legs. There are also special cushions that incorporate the baby about 15⁰.
- We have to offer and encourage them to drink more frequently. In addition to milk (breast or formula in infants) and water, we can also think of foods with high water content (broths and broths, for example).
Nasal washes are a good way to get rid of mucus in young children who still can't blow their nose.. Excess secretions can increase the risk of upper respiratory infections. The College of Physiotherapists of Catalonia reminds us that the most common infections in children are precisely those of the upper respiratory tract (rhinitis, pharyngitis, otitis, sinusitis ...). In all cases, these first infections can remain in the upper airways or lead to complications of the lower respiratory tract. All this we can avoid or reduce its complications by doing nasal washes.
As it is a simple treatment that we can do at home and with which we do not use medications, it is important to include it as one more routine in the hygiene of our little ones. Keeping the nose and mucous membranes in good condition, we ensure that they can breathe through the nose comfortably and, therefore, facilitating their well-being by being able to eat and sleep better.
Laia Maseras Salvadó