A patient I cared for some time ago, four-year old Brianna, had ongoing ear and sinus problems and would often require multiple medications to control her allergy symptoms. I introduced Brianna to washing her nose by encouraging her to fill the bottle with warm water and just play with it during her daily bath. This helped her get the feel of the pressure needed to squirt water out the tip. Both her mom and I would applaud her efforts. Next, we suggested to her that if she tried to squirt just a bit of water in her nose, it would help her blow her nose clean. Again, we applauded all of her efforts. The next step was to play a game and ask if she could make the water come out of the other nostril. Over a short period, Brianna became an expert at washing her nose without any help from her mother. Brianna's office visits and medication use decreased as she perfected her nasal washing technique.
Four-year old Sophie had similar problems. In addition, her speech development was delayed because of recurrent ear problems which stemmed from her allergies. Of course, we looked at environmental factors and her parents did as much as they reasonably could in this regard. Sophie slowly learned to use a nasal rinse much like Brianna. Only one year later, Sophie's parents have told me that she will sometimes wake up with a stuffy nose and ask to wash. Then she steps up to the sink, washes her nose completely on her own, blows, grunts like an old man and walks away saying "Now that feels good. I can breathe". At seven years young, Sophie is now a pro at nasal irrigation and she gladly demonstrates her technique to any camera or person who is interested. Most importantly, she has been free of allergy medications for years.
The overall approach to teach a child how to wash must be geared towards the child's developmental age as well as his or her past experiences. One slow step at a time, no forcing allowed. Only gentle encouragement, bribing, demonstrating and lots of positives for any success at all.
Be Well, Dr. Hana
Hana R. Solomon, M.D. Share your experiences or ask a question firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author of Clearing the Air One Nose at a Time, Caring for Your Personal Filter