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Health & Safety

How to Teach Kids to Blow Their Nose

It's harder than it looks, but these expert tips can help

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A stuffy nose can be tough for kids and parents: Many babies hate the bulb syringe and while some parents swear by other types of snot suckers ("nasal aspirators"), your child has to be on board. At some point, the easiest answer is to teach kids to blow their nose. Here's how:

Start slow. Just as with walking, talking, and potty training, kids don't learn how to blow their nose overnight. "Just like you wouldn't hand them a ten-speed bicycle and say, 'Ride!' you can't expect a kid to just pick up a tissue and blow," explains Scott Goldstein, M.D., a pediatrician in Chicago and instructor of clinical pediatrics at Northwestern University School of Medicine. Start by letting your child watch you blow your nose.

Take it step-by-step. When you're ready to teach your child-and many kids are ready to learn by around age 2-explain it in simple terms. "Try breaking down nose blowing into a step-by-step process so kids will know exactly what's happening and feel more comfortable," says Dina DiMaggio, M.D., a pediatrician at New York University Langone Medical Center and at Pediatric Associates of NYC. "You might say, 'Mommy is going to touch your hand with this soft tissue. Now we are going to put it on your nose. I'm going to press the hole on the right side of your nose closed with the tissue so you can blow air and boogers out the other hole. We are going to repeat this with the left side. Then we are going to wipe under your nose to get rid of all the boogers, throw out the tissue, and wash our hands."

Practice during bath time. "Encourage your child to blow bubbles out of his nose in the bath, since things are louder and tend to resonate better in the water," suggests Dr. Goldstein. (As always, keep a close eye on your kid in the bath.)

Play a game. Have a race to see who can, say, move a tissue, a feather, or scrap of paper across a table the fastest by blowing it with your mouth and then your nose, suggests Dr. Goldstein. Or tell your kid to "make the tissue dance" by blowing on it.

Don't stress. If it takes your child a while before she figures out how to blow her nose, don't worry. "Nose blowing doesn't make you get well faster, it isn't always easy, and it can be painful if you do it too much or too hard," says Dr. Goldstein, M.D. If she's really uncomfortable, try a nasal aspirator and keep practicing.