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The Best Nasal Aspirator for your Baby

This article will discuss the pros and cons of various types of nasal aspirators and ultimately lead you to choose the best nasal aspirator for your baby.

Parents are in distress when they see their child struggling to breathe especially when they are congested because of a cold or infection. In average, babies less than 2 years old do not know how to blow their noses. It is a learned behavior and there is a wide degree in ages to when babies can perform this action. In the meantime there are quite a few nasal aspirators in the market. Aspirators basically can be grouped into three categories.

Bulb syringe typically used in hospitals.

1. Bulb syringes are the most common type of nasal aspirators used in the United States for babies. It is used in many U.S. hospitals. However, a common misconception is that many parents feel that mechanically operated bulb syringes are the best choice since doctors use them. This is not true. Many hospitals use them because they can acquire them at a cheap price and that it serves its purpose of clearing the airways from the fluids in the mother’s womb. Also, this is meant to be a “use once and throw away” disposable item. Unfortunately, many consumers associate the bulb type as the best option.

In the hospital perspective, if it is not broken, no need to fix it. Also it is economical for the hospital to use this device and moreover it serves its purpose in clearing the airways from amniotic fluid which is less viscous than thicker mucus seen in some infections. It is nearly impossible to clean and there is no way to confirm whether all the mucus that has been suctioned in is cleaned out. Furthermore it is almost impossible to air dry the insides of the bulb. After the bulb is used for some time, it will harbor bacteria, viruses, fungi and mold. This is a health hazard and parents should be aware of this.

Another problem with the bulb syringe method is that the tip of the bulb must be inserted in the nostril a number of times because the volume of suction in the bulb is small. This can cause great irritation to the inner lining of the nose. The inner nose is quite sensitive – especially the portion covering the nasal septum. Thus nosebleeds are more likely to occur.  This method is the most inefficient and should not be a re-used item.

PROS: Inexpensive, use for thin mucous secretions

CONS: Bulb if reused can harbor bacteria, viruses and fungi; it is nearly impossible to clean and sterilize, can irritate the inner nose through repeated use, weakest suction, use once and throw away

Electric powered suction

2. Electric powered “consumer” nasal aspirators appears to be the top of the line choice because it is the most expensive – not true. Some parents also feel that it will protect them from catching the baby’s cold in comparison to human suction devices. However, microscopic droplets from the baby’s nose can travel to the pump mechanism and cause contamination. Bacteria, viruses and fungi in the pump mechanism is a source of a health hazard. It is impossible to clean the pump device in exception to cleaning the suction reservoir. This can correlate to the breast milk pump article citing the safetiness of used breast milk pumps. The suction power of most if not all of the consumer brands are weak at best.

[Exception] There is another item Baby-Vac which uses the power suction of the vacuum cleaner – the suction may be strong but it first of all needs a vacuum cleaner which is cumbersome to take out and very noisy. The strength of suction is determined by the power of the vacuum cleaner. The suction may very well be too strong.

PROS: Risk of catching the baby’s cold is low, no need for human suction which can cause dizziness for some people

CONS: Expensive, suction is weak in consumer products and is useful mainly for very thin secretions

Aspirators powered by human suction.

Aspirators powered by human suction.

3. Nasal Aspirators powered by human suction depending on the design have a strong suction power (dependent on the user) and it’s ability to control the amount of suction is a plus. However, they do have the highest possibility of catching the cold of the infant because of the direct nose to air to mouth route. Some of the nasal aspirators are poorly designed and difficult to clean and use.  Others have proprietary filters which claim to help prevent infection to the user but overall add to the cost of usage.

PROS: Strength of suction can be controlled by the mouth (dependent on user),

CONS: It is possible for the user to catch the same cold from the baby

Nasal aspirators via human suction:  BabyComfyNose and Nosefrida.

Nasal aspirators via human suction: BabyComfyNose and Nosefrida.

Each category has their top performing aspirators but what is the best nasal aspirator for your baby?  Out of all types of nasal aspirators, HappyBabyUSA is currently recommending BabyComfyNose or Nosefrida as the best choice for your baby. Here are just some of the reasons:  the design is excellent so that no liquid can be suctioned up to the mouth when properly positioned, the suction power is very strong and controlled (dependent on the user), the tip is not invasive, the aspirator is very easy to clean and finally, it just works well.  (re-edited 2/2014)

  1. August 24, 2011 at 9:02 am

    I have so much trouble with the bulb aspirator. It doesn’t seem to fit in my daughters nose very well, so it seems impossible to use. I’ve used the little noses one before, but the suction just isn’t enough. I like the idea of an aspirator powered by me, and as far as the getting sick part, when my daughters sick, I usually am too.

    • September 4, 2011 at 8:37 am

      Thank you for your input. Here is a tip: when using the human powered aspirator I recommend for you to not use your whole lung capacity for suction but with your mouth use short spurts of suction to get the mucous out. Using one continuous suction is okay but some people get headaches and tension in the back of the neck. Also using spurts of suction can allow one to reposition the aspirator so that one does not suction the “sides” of the inner nose but rather the nasal cavities.

  2. Heather Johnson
    October 31, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I read a discussion on Babycenter about a vacuum powered aspirator called Snotarator, so I have done some research on it. I found out that it’s been used in Europe for years, but it is a brand new product here in the US. It’s non-invasive, user friendly as opposed to the bulb aspirator, and you don’t need to worry about running out of breath while restraining your Little One, like with the human powered aspirators. It is also engineered to regulate the vacuums suction power to a safe level. I ordered one online, but I did not have to use it yet -thankfully.
    In a consumer driven society such as ours, how do we not know about a great product when it’s been on the market for so long in other countries?

  3. November 7, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Thank you for your insight. Indeed great products survive the test of time. Although my main concern for the vacuum powered aspirators were aimed toward the force of the suction – the power of the suction is determined by the vacuum cleaner, but what determines a safe level I really cannot say.

    [added later] The force of suction (in other words “sucking-power”) is important because when the nose is blocked by thick mucus, it is the power of suction that determines whether the mucus can be “sucked” out of the nose. This is what determines an effective nasal aspirator vs. non-effective one. A vacuum powered aspirator in no doubt has the ability to suck out thick mucus but the problem arises when the there is obstruction [end].

    In my opinion, a controlled suction would be more safe because the user can immediately stop the suction when there is a strong blockage in the nasal cavaties – the blockage can be either due to heavy congestion or due to obstruction of the opening of the aspirator tube from other causes such as inflamed sinuses. In cases of heavy congestion, steam can be used to open the sinuses (by going into a steam filled bathroom) or sometimes nasal drops can help… Afterwards, suction can be started again.

    If the suction is continued during a blockage, the force of suction can rupture the small capillaries in the nose and cause a nosebleed. One can understand more clearly by this example: If one side of a tube or straw is completely blocked – when one starts to suck on the other end, the sides of the straw or tube collapses. If this was a nasal cavity, continued suction would create negative pressure in the cavity and delicate capillaries in the nasal cavity can rupture. It is important to note that nosebleeds are a complication due to use of ALL types of nasal aspirators – mostly due to improper use.

    Another example can be seen if one starts “suction” against the skin, one can start to see redness and in some cases small pinpoint bleeding. The skin is layered and much stronger than the mucous lining of the nose in which capillary ruptures are more easily seen.

    I would like to note that when the nasal cavities are patent or open, the velocity or more accurately the force of air suction really doesn’t matter that much.

    In societies such as Europe and Asia where aspirators are prevalant, There seem to be more cases of nosebleeds due to aspirators and thus some doctors are emphasizing proper use… (It is important to note however that “nose picking” is the number cause of all nosebleeds.)

    Thank you again for your insight and best wishes for your child.

  4. Heather Johnson
    January 22, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    I’ll be honest, after reading your reply I had second thoughts about the snotarator. My little girl got RSV in November and when I took her to our Pediatrician I brought the snotarator and my vacuum cleaner (dirt devil vision cyclonic canister). My Pediatrician was obviously shocked, but was willing to try it to see the suction power. She checked the suction power on her hand with and w/o the snotarator and told me it was safe to use. She compered it to a suction device that are used in the Emergency Rooms. I was still not 100% convinced when I got home and also compered it to my shop vac in the garage that is much stronger than the dirt devil and the result was almost the same. I mean with the snotarator attached, the shop vac had almost the same suction power as the dirt devil. I also tried it on myself first before using it on B and the suction power didn’t seem too strong at all, I could easily move it away from my nose without turning the vacuum cleaner off.
    After all the homework I have done on it, I was ready to use it on my little girl. She was not crazy about it, but put up less of a fight than when we used the nosefrida. Maybe because she didn’t have the time, it was done so quickly and it got substantially more mucus out than the nosefrida. Before finding the snotarator, I thought the nosefrida worked pretty well, but I could never clear B’s nose to stay dry for more than a few minutes.
    Overall, I love the snotarator, I think it’s an awesome product!

    • Hanieh
      August 3, 2015 at 2:33 am

      Thank you very much for sharing your experience! I have a question regarding the vaccum type of nasal aspirators! I found two brands that offer this type, one is the “snortarator” that you mentioned and another is the “baby-vac”! Which one do you think is better and why? The baby-vac seems to be more famous and has a lot more reviews. The Snortrator has only 3 reviews on amazon and a few more like yours that I found online. Some baby-vac reviewers commented that they didn’t like the fact that the device can damage the vacuum cleaner. Is this also the case with snortrator? Do you know if both brands are easy to clean or which one is easier to clean?

      Thanks a lot

  5. January 22, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Thank you for the follow up on the Snotarator. It is good to know that the suction is safe and it works!

  6. Hildegard
    August 10, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    I have done extensive research too, and found out that the BabyComfyNose is made out of PVC plastic, which is very harmful. You will sometimes see the “PVC-free” label because of this.

  7. August 10, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    Thank you for your input about PVCs and glad we have a chance to touch on this topic. I too have noticed some items being labeled as PVC-free. But I may have to somewhat disagree with you. In my opinion PVC-free is a term that is a little vague in its use. It may be similar to say “glass-free” when the product should say “lead-free glass”. It may mislead the consumer to think that the plastic they are using with their product is safer. The more important question may be this: Does PVC-free means that the material of the product they are using now is safer?

    BPA-free or Phtalate-free is a little different matter because it deals with the additives that are included into the plastics to change its composition and characteristics. Those additives have been proven to be harmful and many worldwide organizations including.the FDA have reported a ban of its use in some products.

    Coming back to PVCs, it is my understanding that there are different types and grades of PVCs in accordance with the product. PVCs (polyvinyl chloride) are created from VCMs (monomer vinyl choride). So in essence, putting together VCMs would create a PVC. VCMs are proven to be carcinogens but “pure” PVCs are not.

    I agree with you that there are known carcinogens from some PVC based products. There are many kinds of PVCs based plastics. The main concerns of toxicity from PVC stem from this:
    1. Residual VCMs remaining on the final product of PVCs
    2. Plasticizers – most if not all reports of toxicity from PVC’s stem from some of the “additives” to make the plastic more flexible. The most famous of them all are the pthalates!

    While the use of plastics is unfortunate, PVCs are widely used in our daily lives from shower curtains (another hot topic) to pipes in our potable water systems. In my experience, the softer and more “smelly” plastics are the ones consumers should be weary of – the softer ones normally contains the additives.

    Going back to the article, I would need to reconfirm the exact composition of the material but as far as I know, BabyComfyNose is BPA and phthalate free and uses “medical grade plastic” – other medical items use the same grade of plastic material.

  8. Jeen
    February 6, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Very well written review. Thank you so much!

  1. January 24, 2013 at 10:09 am
  2. April 24, 2013 at 1:06 am

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