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How to Loosen Phlegm in an Infant

By Max Whitmore ; Updated June 13, 2017

The common cold, a flu or an allergy can all cause excess phlegm production in infants. In children over age 2 you can administer an pediatric formula decongestant to relieve the symptoms, but doctors caution against using these products in infants. Steam inhalation and saline irrigation are safer, drug-free solutions for loosening phlegm in an infant.

Shower Steam Inhalation

  1. Fill your bathroom with steam by running a hot shower for several minutes. If your infant has aches and pains or chills associated with a cold or flu, the warm moist air will also comfort him.

  2. Sit in the steamy bathroom with your infant in your arms. Wrap her in a towel, if desired.

  3. Let the steam loosen the phlegm as he breathes normally.

Humidifier or Vaporizer Steam

  1. Place a humidifier in your child’s room. Humidifiers moisten the air with a cool mist and help thin the mucus in your infant’s chest and sinuses. Vaporizers moisten the air with steam and some devices contain a reservoir to release natural decongestant inhalants, such as eucalyptus.

  2. Fill the fluid reservoir on the device per the manufacturer’s instructions and turn on the device.

  3. Allow the device to run overnight as your child sleeps.

Saline Irrigation

  1. Cradle your infant in your arms and support her head and neck in the crook of your elbow.

  2. Administer nasal saline to each of your infant’s nostrils per the manufacturer’s instructions. Saline nasal spray is available at your drug store.

  3. Compress a bulb syringe and gently insert the tip your infant’s nostril. Allow the bulb to expand and suction the mucus and saline out of your infant’s nose. Suction the other nostril in the same manner.

  4. Tip

    If your infant’s phlegm worsens, if he has difficulty breathing or if he has asthma, consult your pediatrician.

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