Baby Accidentally Swallowed Saline Drops (How Salt Much Is Too Much?)

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We know saline drops are great for helping our babies with their stuffy noses, but what happens if they accidentally swallow it?

The saline drops that parents use to keep their baby’s noses clean and moisturized are meant to mimic the body’s natural fluids to minimize irritation. Although your baby may gag when the drops hit the back of her throat, she won’t choke on them. The salt content could pose a threat if your baby drinks the entire bottle, but the risk is minimal.

Read on to find out what to do if your baby swallows saline drops, what the recommended limits for salt intake are for infants and children, and what, if any, side effects to look out for. 

What to do if baby accidentally swallowed saline drops

If your child has accidentally swallowed saline drops, don’t panic.

Chances are, this is completely harmless and nothing to be concerned with. The saline drops are composed of mainly salt and water with no harmful drugs to be concerned with. The main worry would be the danger of your baby ingesting too much salt. However, ingesting just a few drops of saline solution would put your child nowhere near dangerous sodium levels.

If your baby accidentally drinks the bottle of saline drops, you may want to contact the Poison Control Center just to make sure there is no need for worry. You can contact them at 1-800-222-1222. Have the bottle of saline drops ready as the Poison Control Center will want the exact brand name and will want to know how much product is in the container. They can put your mind at ease and tell you any symptoms to watch out for.

Are saline drops dangerous for babies

Saline drops are completely safe for babies when used as directed.

Even if your baby accidentally swallows some saline solution when drops are inserted into their nose, it will be nowhere near an amount to cause any concern.

If your baby drank some of the saline solution, it would also be unlikely that this would cause any harm. For one, the salty drink probably didn’t taste very good so it likely deterred your baby from drinking much at all. Even if they did drink more than a few sips, the entire container only holds around an ounce of saline solution.

How much salt is in saline solution

Saline solutions were developed to mimic the natural fluid found in the body to minimize potential irritiation.

Those meant for rinsing nasal passages, irrigating bladders, and rinsing contacts are about 0.9% salt to mimic the natural sodium concentration of tears, blood, and other bodily fluids. Infant saline drops tend to contain an even lower concentration of sodium.

Little Remedies Saline Spray + Drops, for example, have a sodium chloride concentration of 0.65%. 

How much salt is dangerous for baby

The maximum recommended amount of salt varies by age, but should be limited throughout childhood.

The NHS recommends:

  • Infant to 12 months – less than 1 g (0.04 oz) 
  • 1-3 years – 2 g (0.07 oz)
  • 4-6 years – 3 g (0.1 oz)
  • 7-10 years – 5 g (0.18 oz)
  • 11+ years – (0.2 oz)

While there is no hard and fast number to go by for how much salt is considered dangerous, there have been cases of fatalities in children under the age of five who had estimated doses of less than 7 grams – 13 grams of salt, usually because the salt was mistaken for sugar.

Can babies overdose on saline drops

It would be extremely challenging for an infant to overdose on saline drops.

If your baby drank saline drops, it is unlikely that they would drink a whole bottle due to its salty taste. Moreover, the amount of salt in the entire bottle is only about .195g, which is within safe recommendations for baby over one year (although your little one may have an upset tummy after chugging it).

If you are concerned, contact the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

Can babies choke on saline drops

If you’ve ever inserted saline drops into a baby’s nose before, you know they can make some pretty scary sounds and even sound like they’re choking, but it’s not actually hurting them.

According to this pediatrics office, it’s very common for babies to cough, gag, gargle, and choke when giving saline drops and suctioning the nose.  

Side effects of baby swallowing saline drops

If your baby has swallowed some saline drops, you may be wondering if he will suffer any side effects, but your baby probably won’t show any effects at all if he only consumed a few drops.

If your baby or child drank more than that, chances are they will be more thirsty than usual. This is their body’s way of helping to restore balance after the unexpected sodium intake. If we take in too much, our body tells us to drink more water which helps the kidneys flush out the excess salt. 

In adults, too much sodium has been linked to kidney stones, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease but it is unlikely your baby would experience any of these side effects from a one-time event.   

What are saline drops used for

As a parent of young children, saline drops are a great product to have on hand.

They are used to moisten dried nasal passages to help loosen and thin mucus and secretions to help your little one clear congestion as well as help to reduce swollen nasal tissues. Usually used in conjunction with a nasal bulb syringe or aspirator, saline drops are incredibly useful as newborns and small infants under two months old mostly breathe through their noses.

They also lack the ability to blow their nose so it’s important to clear their nasal passages when we hear them becoming stopped up. 

While you could just use a nasal aspirator bulb by itself, I’ve found that using only an aspirator bulb tended to irritate my babies’ noses and they generally didn’t tolerate it very well. Simply using one to drops of saline drops per nostril before using the bulb worked wonders to loosen up all that mucus as well as coat the nasal passages in moisture. 

How often can you use saline spray on a baby

As with most products, it’s best to consult your spray’s packaging for the recommended use as brands may vary.

Little Remedies Saline Spray + Drops states for newborns and infants to use 2-6 drops in each nostril as often as needed or as directed by a doctor. Children and adults can use 2-6 sprays or drops as often as needed or as directed by doctor. They also claim there are no side effects so it is safe to use as often as needed. 

However, you should limit suctioning with a nasal bulb syringe to 4 times a day to prevent irritation.

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