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What Are the Dangers of Using a Bulb Syringe on a Newborn?

by Debra Pachucki

Since babies cannot blow their noses, it's up to parents and caregivers to clear excess mucus from a newborn’s nasal passages. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using saline drops and a bulb syringe. While the bulb syringe method is a relatively safe procedure, excessive or improper use of the device can cause discomfort or harm to a newborn. Gentleness and care are key to keeping a newborn safe and calm.

Improper Use

It's important to use the bulb syringe properly to avoid discomfort or harm to your newborn baby’s delicate nostrils. Before you begin, squeeze the syringe to push all the air out, and keep the bulb pressed closed as you insert the tip of the syringe into the baby’s nose. A forceful blast of air from the syringe inside the infant’s nose can irritate the baby’s nostrils and cause sneezing or gagging. When inserting the tip of the syringe, gently guide it into the baby’s nostril just until the nostril is sealed. Pushing the syringe too far or forcefully into the baby’s nostrils can irritate nasal passages or result in injury to the delicate membrane. Slowly release pressure on the bulb to draw the air back in, which gently suctions loose mucus from the baby’s nose. When suctioning the mouth, point the syringe tip in toward one cheek to avoid gagging and vomiting.

Excessive Suctioning

Although it may take a few tries to completely remove mucus from the infant’s nostrils, limit suctioning a baby’s nose to two or three times a day, according to the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters in Norfolk, Virginia. Excessive suctioning of the nostrils can result in a dry, sore or bloody nose. It can also cause swelling and more stuffiness.

Saline Solution

Saline solution frequently accompanies suctioning an infant’s nose with a bulb syringe. It thins and loosens mucus, which makes the mucus easier to suction out. Saline solution is safe for newborns, according to Trestlewood Pediatrics in Michigan, and can be made at home or purchased from the drugstore. Although excessive saline solution won't cause serious harm to your baby, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital recommends no more than three to four drops per nostril. Any more than that can irritate small noses. Homemade saline solution that is too strong can burn or sting a baby’s nostrils.

Improper Cleaning

Proper cleaning of the bulb syringe is essential to keeping it -- and your baby’s nose -- free of dirt, mold and bacteria. Suction and expel clean, warm tap water from the bulb syringe between suction attempts. To clean the syringe after use, suction warm, soapy water into it, shake and expel. Allow the syringe to air dry completely. Replace bulb syringes every few months or if you see any black specs expel from it when squeezed; this is a sign of mold.

About the Author

Debra Pachucki has been writing in the journalistic, scholastic and educational sectors since 2003. Pachucki holds a Bachelor's degree in education and currently teaches in New Jersey. She has worked professionally with children of all ages and is pursuing a second Masters degree in education from Monmouth University.

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