Skip to main content

Solved: How to clear your toddler’s blocked nose at night so everyone sleeps

Sleep better with these stuffy nose tricks for your toddler

Toddler girl sleeping with plush bear
Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock

Toddlers are germ magnets and seem to always have stuffy noses. Too often, this leads to sleepless nights for them and you. If your toddler has a blocked nose at night, we know you both need relief. Fortunately, we can help you all get some sleep and help your little one breathe easier. We’ll explain home remedies for a toddler’s blocked nose and also when to worry about whether your little one can breathe while trying to sleep.

A mom putting her toddler to sleep.
Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

How can I help my toddler’s stuffy nose?

The best ways to deal with a stuffy nose take a bit longer, so deal with them during the day instead of waiting til the middle of the night. Prevention is key to not having to wake up in the middle of the night, though there are still remedies that work quickly if needed.

During the day and at bedtime, use steam as much as possible. Medical News Today suggests using steam to break up congestion before bedtime, at bedtime, and overnight. It loosens thick mucus and makes it easier for a child to breathe. In the case of nasal congestion, it will help the stuffiness run right out instead of being blocked up.

The way to get this steam to your child is to offer a warm, steamy bath at bedtime to break up the mucus before going to bed (of course, not too hot). Let your little one soak for a while and keep the bathroom door closed (with you inside to monitor) and maybe close the shower curtain as well to keep the steam in. (Don’t turn the bathroom fan on and start bedtime a little early to allow extra steaming time.) You can also sit with your child in the bathroom outside of the tub and let the shower run very hot (this time not with your or your child inside) and sit in the steamy room.

Overnight, to keep the steam going, use a cool mist humidifier in their bedroom. Keep the humidifier clean since mold can grow in damp places and do not leave your child alone with the humidifier within reach. Keeping your child well-hydrated also helps with a stuffy nose. All of that water will thin out the mucus and if the stuffed nose is coming from a cold or other illness, staying hydrated is also good practice for flushing out sickness and preventing dehydration.

A young child having help blowing his nose.
HelloRF ZCool/Shutterstock

How do I clear my toddler’s stuffy nose at night?

If these preventative measures haven’t helped and you’re stuck with a very stuffed-up toddler in the middle of the night and need quick remedies, here are a few things you can try.

  • Saline nasal spray or drops. Since it is only salt water and not medicine, this is safe for toddlers. This can flush out congestion immediately to get back to sleep.
  • Nose Frida. This device lets you suck out the congestion in an instant. Just like with saline, it may return, but you can both get back to bed for the time being.
  • Bulb suction. If the Nose Frida grosses you out, try the traditional bulb suction associated with infant care to suck out the congestion.

Unfortunately, you can’t give toddlers medicine yet that will help with their congestion. Ask your pediatrician if there is anything else you can do for your child or if the stuffy nose has gone on for a long time and you are concerned.

Parent taking care of a sick child, helping them blow their nose.
Westend61/Adobe Stock

Can a toddler suffocate from a stuffy nose?

Like adults, toddlers will generally breathe through their mouths when they can’t breathe through their noses. If you think your toddler’s lungs are compromised by the mucus, call the doctor. Otherwise, a blocked nose should not be a problem if your child’s mouth is clear, even if it is uncomfortable and not ideal for a few nights. Mouth breathing is possible and OK temporarily, but only for the length of a typical cold. As always, if you are concerned about your child’s breathing, trust your gut and seek medical attention.

A father wiping a fussy baby's nose.
Martinedoucet/Getty Images

Why does my toddler’s nose get stuffy at night?

If you’ve noticed your toddler has developed a pattern where their nose only seems to get stuffy at night after an otherwise fairly uneventful day, you may be dealing with something more than a common cold. According to the experts at Pediatric ENT of Oklahoma, this could be caused by something as simple as seasonal allergies or something a bit more complex like adenoids, a deviated septum, or a blocked airway. Always consult with your doctor if you notice anything unusual or if your child’s stuffy nose is persistent.

Seattle Children’s Hospital advises seeing a doctor right away if your child is still having trouble breathing after clearing out the nose. The experts there also advise contacting the doctor during office hours (but not an urgent visit) if a blocked nose is waking your child from sleep.

Editors' Recommendations

Sarah Prager
Sarah is a writer and mom who lives in Massachusetts. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, National…
When should your child learn how to ride a bike?
Find out what age to take off the training wheels
Parents teaching their daughter how to ride a bike with training wheels

Learning to ride a bike is a rite of passage for most kids. Children usually learn to ride a bike between the ages of 3 and 8. Bike riding is one of the best outdoor activities for kids, and it's something the entire family can do together. Most kids typically learn to ride a bike with training wheels first, while some are just natural and take to two wheels immediately.

Research shows that the best range for kids to learn a new skill is between the ages of 4 and 12. Teaching your child to ride a bike not only gives them a new experience and skill but the earlier your child learns, the longer they reap the physical and mental rewards of bike riding.

Read more
These 4 pre-nap routines will help your child sleep peacefully
Here's some advice to help your baby nap better
Infant boy sleeping on bed

Any parent or caregiver can tell you how important nap time is. Not only does it allow your little one to get the rest they need, but it also helps give everyone a much-needed break. Frankly, getting kids to nap during the infant and toddler years is an important caregiver skill that can help maintain everyone’s sanity. Dealing with toddlers who refuse sleep, can be frustrating for everyone involved.

While it may take a few tries and even more adjustments, once you develop a solid baby nap time routine, your little one will be sleeping like a baby. Keep reading for four great pre-nap routines for every age and stage.

Read more
Can toddlers drink almond milk or other plant-based drinks?
How safe are milk alternatives for your toddler?
Toddler girl drinking milk through a straw while lying on the grass.

Everyone knows how important milk is in the diet of toddlers. Milk, along with other fortified dairy products or soy beverages, plays an integral role in helping toddlers grow strong bones and teeth and in general, helps your toddler's body grow. Almost all cow's milk has been fortified with calcium and vitamin D, which are crucial nutrients for your growing child. But what's a parent to do if they are vegan or have children who are allergic to cow's milk? These parents often wonder if their toddlers can have almond milk, or other plant-based drinks as a good substitute for cow's milk.

With the recent increase in the popularity of plant-based drinks and almond milk, parents have been confused as to whether their toddlers should be drinking these beverages instead of cow's milk. If you've been curious about whether toddlers can drink almond milk or other plant-based drinks, this should help clear up any confusion.

Read more