Making a Saline Solution
1Gather your materials. Making a saline solution is simple because all you need is salt and water! Sea salt or table salt are both acceptable for a saline solution, but use a non-iodized salt (pickling or kosher) if you have an iodine allergy. To administer the solution nasally, you’ll also need a small spray bottle. One that holds one to two ounces is ideal.
- Infants and small children aren’t able to blow their noses effectively. Get a soft, rubber-bulb syringe to remove nasal secretions gently and efficiently.
2Make the saline solution. There’s more to making saline that just mixing salt and water. For the salt to effectively dissolve into the water, you must raise the water temperature. Boiling the water will also kill off any potentially dangerous microbes living in the tap water. Boil 8 oz. of water, then allow it to cool until just “very warm.” Add ¼ teaspoon of salt and mix well until the salt dissolves. The ¼ teaspoon of salt will make a saline solution that matches the amount of salt in your body (isotonic).
- You may want to try a salt spray that has a greater concentration of salt than your body (hypertonic). This is useful for significant congestion with a lot of discharge. If you’re having trouble breathing or clearing your nose, consider a hypertonic solution.
- To do this, simply add 1/2 teaspoon of salt instead of 1/4 teaspoon.
- Don’t use a hypertonic solution for infants or small children younger than five years old.
3Consider adding baking soda (optional). A half teaspoon of baking soda will adjust the pH of the solution. This makes it less likely to sting a sore nose, especially with hypertonic solutions with a higher salt content. Add it while the water is still warm, and mix well to dissolve the baking soda.
- You can add the salt and the baking soda all at once, but adding the salt first usually results in easier mixing.
4Fill your spray bottle and store the remaining solution. Once the solution has cooled to room temperature, it’s ready to use. Fill the one to two ounce spray bottle with the solution, then pour the rest into a covered container and refrigerate it. After two days, throw out any unused solution and make a new batch if necessary.
Using the Saline Nasal Spray
1Use the nasal solution whenever you feel congested. The small bottle will make it easy to carry around in your pocket or purse. The nasal spray should loosen up the nasal secretions blocking up your nose. Blow your nose after using the nasal spray to remove the blockage.
- Lean forward and angle the spray nozzle into the nostril, toward the ear.
- Spray one or two squirts into each nostril. Use your left hand for your right nostril, and your right hand for your left nostril.
- Sniff gently to keep the saline solution from dripping right out of your nose. Make sure not to snort it back into your throat, though, as this may cause irritation in your septum.
Consider using a bulb syringe to administer nasal spray to babies and small children. Squeeze out about half the air in the bulb and draw up the salt solution into the bulb. Tilt the child’s head back slightly and hover the tip of the bulb over one nostril. Drop three to four drops of the solution into each nostril, avoiding touching the inside of the nostril with the tip as best you can (it can be hard to do this with a wiggling baby!). Try to keep the child’s head still for two to three minutes while the solution goes to work.
3Suction children’s nasal secretions with the bulb syringe. Administer the nasal spray just as you would for an adult, then wait two to three minutes to let it work. After that, you can use the rubber-bulb syringe to gently remove secretions from the child’s nose. Use a soft tissue to gently wipe away any secretions that remain around the nostrils. Remember to use a new tissue on each nostril, and make sure to wash your hands before and after each treatment.
- Tilt the child’s head back slightly.
- Press on the bulb to remove about 1/4 of the air from it, then gently insert the tip into the nostril. Release the bulb to suction nasal secretions into the rubber-bulb syringe.
- Do not insert the tip deep into the child’s nose. You’re only removing the material in the front part of the nostril.
- Try to avoid touching the inside of the nostril, as it could be sensitive and sore during illness.
4Maintain proper hygiene after using the bulb syringe. Wipe any secretions on the outside of the syringe off with a tissue, and discard the tissue. Wash the rubber bulb syringe in warm, soapy water immediately after you’ve finished using it. Suck soapy water in and squeeze it back out several times. Repeat with clean, un-soapy water. Swirl the water around inside the bulb to remove secretions from the walls.
5Repeat this two to three times a day. You don’t want to overdo it with the rubber bulb syringe. Your child’s nose is already sore and irritated. If you fiddle with it all the time, the child will only feel more pain. At most, suction nasal secretions four times a day.
- The best times to do this is before feeding or bed, to help your child breathe better while eating and sleeping.
- If the child squirms too much, just relax and try again later. Remember to be very gentle!
6Stay hydrated. The simplest way to improve nasal congestion is to keep your body moisturized. This keeps the discharge thin and fluid, making it easier to blow your nose or drain. The discharge may drain down the back of your throat. While this is unpleasant, it’s normal and healthy. Drinking hot tea or chicken soup may be especially helpful in keeping you hydrated.
- Drink at least eight to ten 8 oz. glasses of water every day. Drink even more if you have a fever, or if your illness causes vomiting or diarrhea.
Be gentle in blowing and clearing your nose. To prevent the skin of your nose from drying too much, use Vaseline or a hypoallergenic skin lotion or cream. Apply it to a Q-tip and gently spread it around your nostrils as needed. You can also use a humidifier or just place bowls of water throughout the house. The water will evaporate and humidify the air. Rest and relax as much as possible!
8Have a doctor examine infants and small children. For infants, nasal congestion can be a serious problem. It can cause difficulty with both breathing and feeding. Call your physician within 12-24 hours if the nasal spray does not help.
- Call your physician immediately if your infant or young child has nasal congestion along with any fever, cough, trouble breathing, or trouble feeding due to the congestion.
Understanding the Causes of Nasal Congestion
1Consider a wide range of possibilities. Nasal congestion can point to many different causes. The most common causes are infections like cold, flu, and sinusitis and allergies. Environmental irritants like chemicals or smoke can also cause congestion. Some people have chronic runny nose — a condition known as vasomotor rhinitis or VMR.
2Look for signs of viral infection. Viruses are difficult to treat because they live in the body’s cells and reproduce very quickly. Luckily, the most common viral infections are cold and flu, which resolve on their own with time. Treatment is essentially about managing the symptoms and staying as comfortable as possible. To prevent the flu, get an annual vaccination before flu season begins. The symptoms of cold and flu include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Clear, green, or yellow nasal discharge
- Sore throat
- Coughing and sneezing
- Muscle aches and headaches
- Watery eyes
- The flu has additional symptoms: a higher fever (over 102 °F or 39.9 °C), nausea, chills/sweats, and loss of appetite
3Take antibiotics for bacterial infection. Bacterial infections can have widely varying symptoms, including fever. Most bacterial infections are diagnosed clinically or occasionally by a nasal or throat culture. The doctor will be prescribe the antibiotic most likely to treat the most common bacteria. The antibiotic will either kill the bacteria or stop it from reproducing, allowing the immune system to fight the remaining infection.
- Always take the full course of antibiotic treatment, even if you feel better. If you stop taking the treatment before the doctor recommends it, the infection may return.
4Watch for symptoms of sinusitis. Sinusitis is a condition in which the sinuses get inflamed and swollen, causing mucus buildup. It can be caused by a cold, allergies, or bacterial or fungal infections. Though it can be irritating, sinusitis can usually be treated at home without medical intervention. More severe or persistent sinus infections are usually treated with antibiotics. Symptoms include:
- Thick yellow or green nasal discharge, often found in the throat as well
- Nasal congestion
- Tenderness and swelling around the eyes, cheeks, nose, and forehead
- Lowered ability to smell and taste
5Determine whether your lights are too bright. Bright lights are a fairly common cause of nasal congestion. The eyes and nose are closely related, so stress on the eyes can affect the nasal cavity as well. Try dimming the lights in your home or work environment slightly to see if your nose clears up at all.
6Get tested for allergies. Your nasal congestion may be the result of an allergic reaction you don’t even know about. Make an appointment to get tested for allergies at your doctor’s office if you have chronic or severe nasal congestion, especially with itching or sneezing, or think you may have allergies. The doctor will perform a test in which he injects tiny amounts of common allergens into your skin. Only the patches of skin with substances you’re allergic to will swell up slightly, like a mosquito bite. This will allow you to either seek treatment (oral or nasal medication, or even injections) or avoid those allergens. The most common allergens include:
- Dust mites
- Foods: milk, gluten, soy, spices, shellfish, and food preservatives
- Pollen (Hay fever)
- Pet dander
7Remove irritants from your environment. Every single time you inhale and exhale, you’re dragging your external environment through your nose. If the air around you is the source of your nasal irritation, you can take steps to change your environment. Common irritants include:
- Tobacco smoke
- Exhaust fumes
- Dry air (buy a humidifier)
- Sudden changes in temperature
8Ask your doctor about your medications. You may be taking a medication to treat a condition that has nothing to do with your nose, but a side effect of that medication may be causing your nasal congestion. Provide your doctor with a list of all prescription and over the counter medications you’re taking. If one of the drugs is causing your congestion, the doctor may be able to suggest alternate treatment. Congestion commonly arises from:
- High blood pressure medications
- Overuse of decongestant nasal sprays
- Drug abuse
9Consider any hormonal changes. Hormones control many functions throughout the body and can affect many different systems. Hormonal changes and disorders can have an impact on your ability to drain your nasal passages normally. If you are pregnant, have thyroid disorder, or in any way suspect hormonal changes, speak with your doctor. He or she may be able to help you control your hormones and reduce the impact on your congestion.
10Get examined for anatomical problems. It may be that there are no infections, medications, or hormonal fluctuations causing your congestion. It could just be the way your nasal anatomy is constructed. Ask your general practitioner to refer you to a specialist if you are unable to get your nasal congestion under control. A specialist will be able to diagnose whether a physical abnormality is interfering with your breathing. Common anatomical problems include:
- Deviated septum
- Nasal polyps
- Enlarged adenoids
- Foreign body in the nose
- This is especially common in children. This often causes a thick nasal discharge with a bad odor, and it is often only on one side of the nose.
Why am I constantly coughing?
There are a lot of reasons why you might be coughing constantly. You could have anything from respiratory allergies to asthma to chronic bronchitis. You need to see a doctor to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.
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- If you have symptoms of nasal congestion for more than 10-14 days, call your physician.
- Also call your physician if the nasal discharge is greenish or bloody or if you have any respiratory conditions, such as COPD or asthma.
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