Connect with us

What Helps a Stuffy Nose? Moisture

Last updated on

The first time my daughter had a seriously stuffy nose she was 7 months old.  I tearfully panicked as she attempted to feed in the middle of the night, as was usual, and violently de-latched from my breast because she couldn’t breathe and suck at the same time.  I did what any 1st time mother would do, “turn on the hot shower” I yelled, and off we went to open her nasal passages up long enough for feeding intervals.

That got us through that night, but the longer term solution involved researching and reading about humidifiers, vaporizers, nostril aspirators, saline drops, homeopathy, dietary changes, you name it!  Over the counter decongestants: there is a lot of debate out there about when they are effective, the FDA says not to use under the age of 4.

Dr. Alan Greene identifies potential side effects: sleeplessness, drowsiness, irritability, increased blood pressure.  We recommend speaking with your pediatrician or medical provider BEFORE purchasing any OTC.  And if you have an infant with a fever of any type, contact your medical provider and discuss.  Pretty much all the research agrees: moisture or humidity can soothe the symptoms of colds and stuffy noses.

Our first purchase was a vaporizer, and it worked great, except:

  • incredibly difficult to clean
  • the room required airing out afterwards; it produced a lot of moisture.
  • mist created by boiling water, the unit itself becomes hot, so if you have a toddler that is crawling = burn risk.
  • you can add essential oils into the machine (mine required to add salt).

We moved onto humidifiers a more sophisticated machine, yet also puts moisture in the air without boiling water.  Some have a cool mist or a hot mist option.  Moisture is moisture, and the temperature doesn’t matter.  Don’t add any substance to this type of machine, just plain water.


  • Sitting water can breed bacteria.
  • Change the water. (Modern humidifiers like Crane’s, have smaller tanks that don’t allow water to store for more than 2 days. They also have auto shut-off in the event the water runs too low for the motor, not something my vaporizer had, and I admit to burning out more than one motor!)
  • Don’t forget to change the basin! (There is a basin under the tank where water collects.  Change at the same time you change the water tank.  It requires that you unplug the machine, but do it, bacteria may cause other illnesses, and the whole point of using a moisture adding machine is to reduce illness and symptoms!)

As Katie Sotor of Crane-USA says, “It’s still water folks!  So regardless of the machine, or if it has the anti-microbial protection, change the water every 2 days.”  She also recommends disinfecting it every 7 days with a tank full of water and 2-3 caps of vinegar, don’t turn it on, just let it sit for a good 30 minutes.

Using moisture in the air while you sleep is a great non-medical option for infants, young children, and adults.  So if you are pregnant or nursing and want to reduce the symptoms of a cold or reduce the potential of getting one, consider it.  And saline drops in the nose whether stuffy or as a preventive can be very helpful.

Hannah, Writer at  Sleep Reports.

This is not meant as medical advice – consult with your medical provider as needed.