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Nasal saline rinse

Article Translations: (Spanish) (Hmong) (Somali)

Why use nasal saline rinses?

  • Washing the nose with saltwater (saline rinse, lavage, or irrigation), helps to keep the nasal passages open and healthy by rinsing out thick or dried mucus and crusts. 
  • Helps improve the function of cilia that help to clear the sinuses. Cilia are the tiny hair-like structures on the cells that line the nose and sinuses.
  • Helps prevent infection of the sinuses and reduce postnasal drip.
  • Helps keep the nose feel more comfortable by keeping the mucous membranes moist.

Where do I find nasal saline solution?

You can buy nasal saline solution at a pharmacy or you can make your own saline solution:

Saline solution recipe:

  1. Add about 1 cup (237 ml) distilled water to a clean container. If you use tap water, boil it first to sterilize it and allow it to cool until it is lukewarm/room temperature.
  2. Add ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) pickling or canning salt to the water.
  3. Add ½ teaspoon (2.5 g) baking soda.

*You can store homemade saline solution at room temperature for 3 days.

How should I prepare my child?

  1. Use simple words to explain the procedure. Explain the procedure before it is done.
  2. For children, it is often helpful to start with nasal spray to get them used to the inside of the nose feeling wet (saline spray is simply a mist that moistens the inside of the nose. It is not usually adequate to treat significant nasal congestion or discharge).
  3. Once your child is used to the saline spray, then move up to full nasal saline rinses.
  4. The saline rinse may cause a burning feeling the first few times you use it. Most children get used to the rinse after a few times.

How is it done?

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 30 seconds, rubbing all surfaces briskly, or use an alcohol hand sanitizer.
  2. Fill a large medical syringe, squeeze bottle, or nasal cleaning pot with the saline solution.
  3. Have your child stand over the sink and insert the tip into your child’s nostril and squeeze gently (do not plug other nostril).
  4. Aim the stream of saline toward the back of your child’s head, not towards the top.
  5. The saline solution should go through the nose and out of the mouth or the other side of the nose.
  6. Have your child blow the nose gently after the saline rinse.
  7. Clean the syringe or bottle after each use.

Other tips/recommendations:

  • Do the saline rinse BEFORE your child uses other nasal medications. The rinse will help the nose and sinuses absorb the medication(s).


Reviewed by ENT 4/2016

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