Treats: Stuffy, runny noses; dried nasal mucus
Why use saline drops? Saline solution is about to become your new best friend during sniffles season: This deceptively simple combination of salt and water soothes inflamed nasal tissue, thins and loosens nasal mucus (especially the dry, crusty variety), and gives stuffy, congested little noses a chance to drain. Administering saline drops also provides relief for irritated nasal passageways—and those nasty nosebleeds—caused by the dry air of the winter home-heating months. When buying saline drops, make sure to choose a brand that does not contain added cold medication.
How to use them: To apply saline drops, cradle your child in a reclined position, with her head supported and tilted back at a slight angle. Gently squirt two to three drops of saline into each nostril (avoid touching the dropper to the nose to prevent contamination). Continue holding your baby for a few moments to help the saline become fully absorbed.
Return your baby to a sitting position and let gravity assist in drawing the nasal mucus out. For young infants with very congested nasal passageways, experts recommend following up saline treatment with suctioning from a bulb syringe. If your child is between 6 months and 2 years old, saline may be all you need. Within minutes of applying the drops, you will likely hear your child snort or sneeze to clear the nostrils of the saline solution, getting rid of mucus in the process.
Keep in mind: While saline drops do a great job at temporarily relieving your child’s nasal congestion, saline and other cold remedies treat only the symptoms of the cold and do not shorten the life of the viral infection itself. "During the typical cold or upper respiratory infection, nasal discharge begins as a clear, runny nose. Over the next few days, mucus secretions thicken and turn from clear to white or yellowish-green in color. By day seven, discharge lightens and finally clears up about 10 to 14 days after symptoms first started," explains Dr. Bernstein.
Bottom line? Even if you start saline drops at the first sign of a runny nose, you can still expect your child’s cold to last anywhere up to two weeks.