What are Nasal Aspirators?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Nasal aspirators are easy to find in baby supply stores.
Nasal aspirators are easy to find in baby supply stores.

Nasal aspirators are devices used to suction mucus from noses. They are typically used for people who can’t blow this material out, such as babies or others with issues of limited mobility or understanding. Most aspirators are marketed toward use with babies, are easy to find in baby supply stores, and they come in different shapes and varieties.

The simplest of the nasal aspirators is a bulb syringe, which has a squeezable bulb attached to a narrow neck with an opening. A squeeze of the bulb results in reverse action, where as the bulb refills with it air it has a vacuum like effect. When gently inserted a small way into a baby’s nose this can suck out some mucus, helping to alleviate a certain amount of nasal congestion.

Nasal congestion in babies is often a result of swollen nasal passages, rather than an overabundance of mucus.
Nasal congestion in babies is often a result of swollen nasal passages, rather than an overabundance of mucus.

Another fairly simple variant of the nasal aspirators looks like a long narrow tube. One end of the tube is inserted a tiny amount the baby’s nose and the other end is placed in the mouth of the person helping the baby. By inhalation of the helper, suction of the nose occurs. Mucus does not end up in the caretaker’s mouth. There are filters along the way that collect it instead. Still people may be somewhat squeamish using these particular nasal aspirators, though they are popular.

Nasal aspirators may be used on people who are unable to remove nasal mucus without assistance.
Nasal aspirators may be used on people who are unable to remove nasal mucus without assistance.

Those who want to avoid the issue of sucking on a tube and who don’t care for bulb syringes could opt for aspirators that are battery powered. These look slightly like ear thermometers, but they feature a small collection unit for nasal discharge that can be easily washed. They do tend to be pricier than other mucus collection devices. The bulb syringe is clearly the cheapest option at about $3-4 US Dollars (USD), but the other types are still inexpensive at around $20 USD or less.

Many adults use specially designed pots to flush and clear their nasal passages, rendering similar results to an aspirator.
Many adults use specially designed pots to flush and clear their nasal passages, rendering similar results to an aspirator.

There can be advantages and disadvantages to the various types of nasal aspirators. Many people dismiss the bulb syringe as an unworthy collection device because it is difficult to clean. Most syringes can’t be washed in the dishwasher, and it can be hard to fill them with water. Best bet is to use the squeeze action to bring very hot soapy water into the bulb. Repeating this process several times, or allowing the bulb to sit with hot water and vinegar may help. If unsure about cleanliness, consider replacing the syringe.

Facial massage may be used in lieu of a nasal aspirator to alleviate nasal congestion.
Facial massage may be used in lieu of a nasal aspirator to alleviate nasal congestion.

Many people like the easy collection aspects of the battery powered units, and others praise the tube nasal aspirators as most effective. In all cases, an aspirator should provide gentle suction and occasionally they can irritate the nose and cause a little bleeding. Should this occur, aspiration attempts should stop until a doctor gives a go-ahead for them to continue. The nose of the young child is very sensitive and needs careful treatment.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon314788

I use the Snotarator to clear my baby's nose and I think it's a lot easier to use and more effective than the above mentioned aspirators. I wonder why it isn't listed in this article.

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    • Nasal aspirators are easy to find in baby supply stores.
      Nasal aspirators are easy to find in baby supply stores.
    • Nasal congestion in babies is often a result of swollen nasal passages, rather than an overabundance of mucus.
      Nasal congestion in babies is often a result of swollen nasal passages, rather than an overabundance of mucus.
    • Nasal aspirators may be used on people who are unable to remove nasal mucus without assistance.
      Nasal aspirators may be used on people who are unable to remove nasal mucus without assistance.
    • Many adults use specially designed pots to flush and clear their nasal passages, rendering similar results to an aspirator.
      Many adults use specially designed pots to flush and clear their nasal passages, rendering similar results to an aspirator.
    • Facial massage may be used in lieu of a nasal aspirator to alleviate nasal congestion.
      Facial massage may be used in lieu of a nasal aspirator to alleviate nasal congestion.
    • If a nasal aspirator causes bleeding, a doctor should be consulted before further use.
      If a nasal aspirator causes bleeding, a doctor should be consulted before further use.
    • Nasal aspirators may help alleviate allergy symptoms.
      Nasal aspirators may help alleviate allergy symptoms.