Nose balloons for snot-headed kids

Kids with extremely snotty heads can be trained to clear their sinuses by teaching them to inflate "nose balloons":
The balloon helps a kid put air pressure on their eustachian tubes from the pharynx, which opens them and helps keep the middle ear drained. Us grownups do the same thing easily by just closing our eyes, holding our noses and "pushing", like on air trips or while driving in mountains or scuba diving. But try to explain that push to a little kid!

My daughter uses the balloon with great gusto mornings and nights, and often she comments on the wind she then hears blowing inside her ears. That's when an obstructed tube opens and admits air into her middle ear.

Nose Balloon


  1. I’ve had exactly these symptoms for exactly these reasons for the last two months. But I’ve always been told that blowing your nose hard drives crud up into your sinuses.

  2. My doctor prescribed me blowing up balloons (not with my nose) as a child to prevent me from mandatory tubes in my ears. It worked! I stopped having ear aches and the fluids drained. So this is not exactly necessary. BONUS: At one time, I could blow up those long professional-grade clown balloons by mouth.

  3. Balloons are also used for the treatment of encopresis (pooping in inappropriate places often accompanied by severe constipation). Partially inflated balloons are put where the sun don’t shine and kids practice pooping them out, thus learning how to use their poop muscles appropriately. A bit graphic I know.

  4. As an adult with clogged eustachian tubes, I do the hold-the-nose-and-blow, it just makes a crackling squelchy noise.

    Pretty sure it’s not a good proscription in all cases. :(

  5. @Apoxia

    Are they inflated before or after “insertion”?…

    And that’s is kind of a serious question, cause I think as a child I’d be a little weirded out if someone said a doctor was going to be pushing a balloon up my rear…

  6. @ bcsizemo

    You know I couldn’t remember the details off the top of my head. I think I found that clin psyc class a bit gross. I do remember a lot of picture books written for children with titles like “Sneaky Poo” and “Poo go home”.

    I did a quick google search and found articles mentioning insertion of balloons which are then inflated and a pressure probe used to measure internal pressures while the child attempts to push the balloon out. Also, one article mentioned a water-filled balloon that I presume would have to be filled prior to insertion (but maybe not??). All procedures include the doctor inserting the balloon.

    Given the stress caused by encopresis both for the child and the family, insertion of the balloon is just another indignity in a long line of indignities. No wonder there are few psychologist in this line of work.

  7. A little bit of a sore throat and that infection can get pushed up into a eustation tube, then they get middle ear infections. Our doctor recommends not blowing hard just for that reason. Having had ear drums rupture from infections, I can say it is not painless, and bad for your hearing (scar tissue develops).

  8. We did that nose balloon thing with my son. It’s a neat idea in theory, but in his case, it didn’t work. He didn’t like the feeling it made in his head, so he wouldn’t do it correctly.

    He’s since had tubes twice. If I could do it over again, we would have put tubes in his ears earlier instead of fooling around with these nose balloons.

    1. I prefer a Lymphatic Drainage Massage which is accomplished by rubbing your neck in a downward fashion.

      Bilateral carotid massage could be a significant problem with that.

  9. I have images of the balloon rapidly deflating and blasting all that air into the child’s sinuses. All buggy eyed with the tail end of a balloon all that is left as a telltale sign etc… Sad but true…

  10. Great. Now instead of water balloons, kids in my neighborhood are going to be pelting passersby with snot balloons…

  11. I had tubes put in as a child and I was hardly traumatized. Thinking back to all those chronic ear infections I’d had, I think this nose balloon thing with all the blowing would have been painful and I can see how a child wouldn’t do it effectively. Also, I wonder how long a kid would have to use these things? My ear tubes fixed my ear problem permanently in only a few months with no pain and little inconvenience.

  12. My kid has been getting ear infections almost back-to-back since he turned 6 months, now he is almost a year old and I’m pretty sure “they” (his pediatrician and his otorrinolaryngologist) are about to recommend the ear tubes.

    I would love to go that route, except he’s already been under anesthesia once (at 9 weeks) and apparently having a child go under anesthesia more than once before they are 2 years old makes them more susceptible to learning disabilities.

    Since he’s too young to teach him to inflate nose balloons, I guess it’s antibiotics until he’s 2? Which will probably make the bacteria more resistant. Argh!

    Sorry, none of this is very relevant, I know, this post just hit a little nerve, I guess u_u

  13. Ahh yes, I remember the good old days when mom would shove an encopresis balloon up my a$$ and a crustacean clearing tube up my nose and send me onstage to do the hokey pokey.

    Ahh the hokey pokey…

  14. I was pretty sure this was going to be a link to photos of kids blowing snot-bubbles out of their noses. Actually a little let down that it wasn’t.

  15. Mister Eppy: “..and we called it The Aristocrats!”

    Valsalva maneuver, in addition to damaging your hearing and your retinas and pushing your sinus infection into your ears, is not recommended for pregnant women due to the stress it puts on the already-stressed abdominals. Not that these little kids are pregnant, just saying the pressure is high. In the comments on TFA, the author (a doctor) points out that the fact that it is into a balloon keeps the pressure from getting very high. Blowing into a balloon sounds less iffy than closing off one’s nostrils.

    Other ways to help a stuffed-up kid (or person of any age, really): If they’re old enough for solids, give ’em gum or hard candy to make them salivate and thus swallow. When they’re a little older, teach them how to make themselves yawn.

    More on bilateral carotid massage. The sense is that yes, dangerous. Also, who knew that so many med students were into grappling?

  16. any Gojuryu practitioners who happen to have western medical training out there? The Valsalva manoeuvre seems to be Ibuki breathing as done in Sanchin kata, so I wonder what their experience is of less sinus trouble. Or more? Personally, I always found a good sauna the best remedy.

  17. how about not feeding your kid all that milk and cheese he doesn’t need? that should cut down significantly on the mucoid matter running about in his head.

    Also, a netti pot works nicely for adults, but good luck convincing your kid to pour hot, salt water through his sinuses.

  18. DOFNUP, please, for the child’s sake, don’t risk surgery for an easily preventable problem.

    Just put 2-5 drops of white vinegar into the child’s ears after every bath, regardless of whether the child’s ears got wet or not. I am presuming you bathe your child regularly here ;).

    Do not use alcohol drops or hydrogen peroxide in little kids’ ears. Just plain white vinegar.

    Lay the child’s head on your lap, with a towel or other absorbent media under it. Use a plastic dropper to put body-temperature vinegar directly into the ear. Don’t drop it from any height or it will make a terrifying boom when it splashes the eardrum, but try not to actually touch the ear with the dropper.

    Pull gently down on the earlobe to straighten the ear canal and allow the vinegar to reach bottom; massage lightly under the ear as well (kids like massage, usually) until you are reasonably sure it’s gotten all the way in. Then turn your child over and let the vinegar drain onto the towel while you repeat the process on the other ear.

    I hope you will see this! If anyone knows DOFNUP’s email, I would be most grateful if you would forward this to him or her.

  19. @Ito Kagehisa – How does that work? Does the vinegar diffuse through the eardrum and clear out the eustachian tubes?

    As someone who’s had eustachian tube “issues” for my entire life (partially deaf in one ear from all the times the eardrum’s ruptured) I’m always a bit sceptical of people who claim that inner/middle ear problems can be cured by pouring stuff into the outer ear. It’s kind of like trying to kill the roaches in your kitchen by just fumigating the garage.

  20. would spinning your baby upside down and sideways etc. reduce ear infections? I seem to remember the susceptibility comes from juvenile anatomy. The Eustachian tubes are relatively flat so gunk accumulates instead of gravity draining. Some kinder-gym activity? Or maybe an infant car seat mounted in a five gallon paint shaker?

  21. This looks like something I would try, I rely on the Nosefrida aspirator to keep my little one’s ears snot-free, but this seems like it would be good to use as well.

  22. Well … too late. Kid’s ear had developed a pseudo-membrane thanks to all the infections so we had to go through with the tubes.

    On the bright side, it was not IV anesthesia so yay, and no infections since so double yay, and wouldn’t a pseudo-membrane have prevented the vinegar from working anyway?

    Moot point I guess.

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