How to Remove Your Baby's Phlegm

Phlegm is a thick liquid substance that often appears during the first months of a baby's life. What can parents do to get rid of it?
How to Remove Your Baby's Phlegm

Last update: 31 March, 2018

It’s normal for children to experience phlegm or mucous at a very young age. Yet many parents become concerned, especially when there is a lot of phlegm, or the symptoms are recurrent.
Coughing, insomnia, difficulty breathing and even vomiting are some of the most common consequences.

This gel-like substance forms in your little one’s respiratory airways. 

It’s commonly known as “snot” when the secretion comes from the nose. When it comes from the throat or mouth, it’s called “phlegm.”

Snot and phlegm are often signs of the flu, although they can also be symptoms of the common cold.

This substance acts as a line of defense and prevents the spreading of the bacteria and virus.

Phlegm serves as a lubricant to reduce irritation and also traps germs. Therefore, phlegm in and of itself isn’t harmful.

Complications that can result from phlegm

Babies have yet to acquire the abilities to spit and blow their noses in order to get rid of mucous. Coughing and discomfort arise as a result.

The viscosity accumulates, causing congestion in the nose, throat and even in the ears. This can lead to infection, inflammation and general discomfort.

Phlegm can also affect the lungs. A considerable amount can end in a pulmonary infection or swelling of the lungs.

But there is no need for alarm. Mucous seldom leads to serious illness.

Another symptom that may appear is the softening of stool. Since babies don’t know how to spit, they swallow the phlegm, which in turn fills their bellies.

If it stays there, it may produce nausea or even vomiting. So, finding mucous in your baby’s soiled diapers is not all that bad.

How to Remove Your Baby's Phlegm

Seeing a specialist

Taking your little one to see a pediatrician is never a bad idea. 

If your baby’s symptoms don’t improve with time, or other symptoms appear – such as fever or chronic coughing – then definitely call your doctor.

Generally, your child’s doctor will order laboratory tests to rule out related illnessesIf your child is healthy, then it’s unlikely your doctor will prescribe medication to get rid of the phlegm.

Whether medication is necessary or not, a medical professional will give advice regarding the right way to treat the symptoms at home.

For example, your child’s doctor may recommend saline solution or shower vapor to help your little one feel better.

How to fight mucous and phlegm at home

Remaining calm is critical. Keeping your baby’s nasal cavity and mouth clear is usually a simple task. 

Saline solution is very helpful, and you can purchase it at any local pharmacy in spray, liquid or drops.

Ideally, you should look for a spot to lay your baby down on his side. Hold onto his arms to keep him from pushing your hands away.

Then, insert the applicator inside your child’s nostril completely and squeeze, releasing the saline. Wait several seconds and then repeat the process in the other nostril.

The saline solution mixes with the mucous in your child’s nasal passage, and the mixture comes right out. 

It’s good to have some gauze on hand so you can wipe it up right away. The procedure may startle your baby, so be ready to console him as soon as possible.

If there is still mucous trapped in your baby’s airway, take a rubber nasal aspirator to suction out the remaining fluid. If you don’t have one already, you can also find this at your local pharmacy.  

Press down on the bulb with your thumb before gently inserting the instrument’s tip into your child’s nose. When you release pressure on the bulb, the aspirator will act as a vacuum to remove the excess mucous.

Nasal aspirators are very effective tools, yet you shouldn’t use them too frequently. 

Insertion can cause irritation to the inside of your baby’s nose. Therefore, it’s important to be careful in order to avoid injury.

Aspiration through the mouth

Although nasal aspirators are most commonly used on the nose, they also work for removing mucous from the throat. 

Squeeze the bulb and then place the tip at the end of the tongue. Release pressure on the bulb to remove any phlegm that’s in your baby’s mouth.

Try to do this as quickly as possible so as not to produce gagging or vomiting.

Another method for removing mucous involves the use of your fingers. Wrap your index finger in sterile gauze and gently introduce the tip in your child for a few seconds.

There’s no need to use pressure – you just remove your finger gently and the liquid will stick to the gauze.

General care

Keeping your baby well hydrated is an important way to avoid phlegm. 

Providing liquids regularly will dilute the mucous. Furthermore, it will aid in its digestion and keeps your little one’s throat and nose from drying out.

Remember that babies under the age of 6 months should only drink breast milk or formula.

Warm baths can also provide relief and keep your little one’s mouth and nose moist.

Lastly, using a humidifier is also an excellent idea. You can even add mentholated herbs to the mist, making the technique all the more effective.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Nasal hygiene. CHU Sainte-Justine. Le centre hospitalier universitaire mère-enfant. Université de Montréal. [Online].
  • Runny nose in the child care setting (the snuffy child or green gooky nose). Health and Safety Notes. California Childcare Health Program. [Online].
  • Delbem, Alberto & F Cunha, R & Vieira, AE & L. G. Ribeiro, L. (1999). Treatment of mucus retention phenomena in children by the micro-marsupialization technique: Case reports. Pediatric dentistry. 22. 155-8.
  • Rogers, D. Pulmonary mucus: pediatric perspective. Pediatric Pulmonology. 2003.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.