Nasal congestion in infants and children: a literature review on efficacy and safety of non-pharmacological treatments

Minerva Pediatr. 2014 Dec;66(6):549-57.


The most common causes of nasal obstruction and runny nose in infants and children are infections, mainly of viral origin, or allergies. In neonates and infants viral upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) are frequently observed during episodes of nasal obstruction. Saline irrigation of the nose is believed to alleviate URTI symptoms by helping to eliminate excess mucus, to reduce congestion and by contributing to improve breathing. Objective of the study was to review the efficacy and safety of non-pharmacological options for the treatment of nasal congestion and its sequelae, in infants and children, with a special focus on hypertonic and isotonic solutions and other medical devices, including nasal aspirators. Available data indicate that nasal symptoms in children with allergic rhinitis or acute sinusitis significantly improved following nasal saline irrigation. The use of medical devices is less documented. Nasal aspiration with a medical device, associated with an isotonic saline solution, during viral rhinitis, has been shown to lower the risk of developing acute otitis media and rhinosinusitis, in comparison with a group treated with physiological saline solution alone. Safety and tolerability have been evaluated and no serious adverse events have been reported. Literature data highlighted the good tolerability. The use of isotonic and hypertonic saline solutions to relief nasal congestion in infants and children is widespread; it is a safe and valuable therapeutic support, and can reduce the use of medications (antihistamines, decongestant, antibiotics, corticosteroids) during the treatment of URTIs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Nasal Obstruction / etiology
  • Nasal Obstruction / pathology
  • Nasal Obstruction / therapy*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / pathology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / therapy
  • Rhinitis / pathology
  • Rhinitis / therapy*
  • Sinusitis / pathology
  • Sinusitis / therapy*
  • Sodium Chloride / administration & dosage
  • Sodium Chloride / chemistry
  • Therapeutic Irrigation / methods


  • Sodium Chloride