Another UPside of Down syndrome? Those cute, petite noses. I am so thankful Ella did not inherit the nose of either my mother’s family (German descent) or of my father’s American Indian ancestry.

However, having a tiny nose means also having tiny nasal passages that more easily become clogged with – well, you know – snot. It’s almost a daily battle in our household. When Ella gets stuffy, her speech becomes difficult to understand. The skin below her nose becomes raw and painful.  Her lips crack from breathing through her mouth. She doesn’t sleep well, leading to daytime drowsiness which affects her school performance. The poor kid just doesn’t feel good.

Long-term nasal congestion and chronic upper respiratory infections in our kids can also lead to dental decay, facial skin irritation, tongue protrusion, speech delays, and even stomach upset. A snotty nose may seem like mostly an irritation (to our kids and to us- the parents!) but it should be taken seriously.

Ella started using a Neti Pot when she was about five years old. At first, I thought there would be no way she would tolerate it. And it did take a bit of time (and bribery) for her to get used to it. But now, Ella asks to have her nose cleaned out. Nasal irrigation has made a dramatic difference in Ella’s life.

I asked my good friend Dr. Ryan Sullivan to give you more information about using nasal irrigation for your kids. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Allergy/Immunology, with a practice in the Nashville area. And most importantly – he has his own kids with stuffy noses. Please post any additional questions you have for Dr. Sullivan.                             -Dr. Julia Kinder


If you have a child then you are familiar with the challenges of treating runny, stuffy noses. There are many treatment options available but it can be hard to choose one. For many parents, giving medications to their child is a concern and I am often asked about alternative treatments for allergies, sinus infections, and colds.

One natural solution that I highly recommend is nasal and sinus irrigation. The most well-known version of this treatment is the Neti pot. The Neti pot originally comes from an ancient yoga medical tradition but it has been used in many cultures to treat nasal symptoms for centuries.

Basically, nasal irrigation flushes out the nose and sinuses with a large volume of salt water. It removes allergens, bacteria, and irritants. It also helps remove thick, sticky secretions that may be clogging the nose or leading to drainage. Not only does it remove unwanted debris, the saline solution in the Neti pot also soothes and moisturizes the nose. This is important in the winter, as the dry air can lead to nose-bleeds.

While the Neti pot has been around for thousands of years, modern technology has improved on the method in some useful ways. Ancient cultures did not always use water to irrigate the nose. Some cultures were known to use urine or boric acid in the Neti pot. I am as fond of ancient traditions as anyone but I recommend using distilled, sterile, or previously boiled water to make up the irrigation solution. Also, we now have simple plastic squeeze bottles available that can provide a bit more force and flow through the nose. You can find one at any pharmacy. Whether you decide to use the Neti pot or a plastic squeeze bottle will be based on personal preference, as they are both effective.

Be sure to not use plain tap water to irrigate the nose. It is too dilute and will irritate the lining of the nose. To make a proper saline solution, add a half a teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of lukewarm water. Whatever salt you have in your pantry will work just fine, including iodinated salt. If you like you can use a half-teaspoon of baking soda instead. Some people will prefer one over the other, but either way is fine.

Next, tilt the head forward and slightly sideways and place the nozzle in the upper nostril. Do not plug up the other side of the nose; simply let the solution drain out of the lower nostril. Do this over the sink or in the shower as this procedure can make a mess. Flush until the secretions are clear in color. Do this once or twice a day when nasal and sinus symptoms are active. Once symptoms resolve, I recommend performing nasal rinses 2 – 3 times per week as a maintenance regimen. Think of it as good sinus hygiene.

Also, it’s important to properly care for your nasal irrigation device. Either wash the device thoroughly by hand, or put it in the dishwasher if it’s dishwasher-safe. Follow by drying the device completely after each use.

Treating a runny, stuffy nose may not seem all that important but don’t forget how important the nose was to Samantha Stevens on the TV show “Bewitched”, or to Rudolph the Reindeer. While your children may not need their noses for casting spells or guiding Santa’s sleigh, we can make a big difference in their lives if we can help make their noses happy.

Contributed by Dr. Ryan Sullivan, Board-Certified in Internal Medicine, Allergy & Immunology. 

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