June 10, 2011 8:57 AM   Subscribe

So, my 4year old can;t blow her nose. Any amount of explaining how to blow your nose does not seem to help her, though TBH I am not sure I am doing a good job as is it's difficult to describe it more than "just blow out through your nose". Is this something that can be taught? When do people usually figure it out?
posted by Artw to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I didn't figure out how to blow my nose until my 20s. YMMV.
posted by amro at 9:00 AM on June 10, 2011 [9 favorites]

My brother didn't learn how to blow his nose until he was 7 or 8, so it can definitely be learned. Does she like to blow bubbles through her nose when she's underwater or swimming? Have you tried explaining that it's basically the same thing?
posted by lilac girl at 9:01 AM on June 10, 2011

What part can't she do? Blow air out her nose, or actually perform the "blowing her nose" action to get snot out into a tissue?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:02 AM on June 10, 2011

My son still can't do it properly and he's 13. :-(
posted by tuesdayschild at 9:04 AM on June 10, 2011

Response by poster: Either. If I ask her to blow air out of her nose she just sniffs in and looks miserable... :-(

Oh, and she's not a swimmer either - hates going underwater.
posted by Artw at 9:04 AM on June 10, 2011

Try breathing with her. Breathe through your nose. Have her try to do the same. Then breathe really hard through your nose and, again, have her do the same. That's obviously the same thing as blowing your nose, but if you start out with something she can already do, she might understand better than with words. (I used to work at a preschool and had to help a kid or two get the hang of this.)
posted by katillathehun at 9:05 AM on June 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

My nine year old can't do it and I was at least 12 before I figured it out.
posted by bondcliff at 9:07 AM on June 10, 2011

Hmm, something occurs to me because I am having really irritating sinus trouble at the moment - does she have a blocked nose or blocked sinuses? Because at the moment I literally cannot blow air OUT of my nose because my sinuses close up when I try, whereas I can breathing in/sniff without any problems.

Otherwise I would do as katilla suggests and get her used to the idea of breathing in and out just using her nose.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:07 AM on June 10, 2011

Perhaps this video from Sesame Street might be helpful?

Also, I didn't figure it out until I was at least 12, but my sister could do it from the age of about 3. YMMV, but your kid will figure out how eventually.
posted by Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo at 9:09 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

If I recall correctly I was about 6-7 when I learned how to blow my nose.

Try having her say NNNNNNNNN, which forces air out through the nose, and is (basically) the setup for nose blowing.
posted by no relation at 9:15 AM on June 10, 2011

I'm sure I've seen this answer here before, but: when her nose is clear, have her learn to blow out a candle with her nose.
posted by clicking the 'Post Comment' button at 9:15 AM on June 10, 2011 [8 favorites]

I'm in the same position. No amount of explaining and demonstrating will get my 4-year-old son to blow his nose. So we wait and wipe. He'll get there eventually.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 9:34 AM on June 10, 2011

I learned how to blow my nose in my 20s, too. When I finally figured it out, it was by holding one nostril closed and blowing out the other, snot-rocket style. I eventually graduated to regular style.

When I think about how nose-blowing feels different from regular exhaling, I usually scrunch up my face a little. Maybe if you tell her to make a scrunched up angry face and then snort like a mad rhino?
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:45 AM on June 10, 2011

Does she understand how you can breathe through your nose and your mouth?

This may work better when she's not stuffed up, but I recall having it explained to me by breathe in through my nose and then breathing out through my nose really hard. Even if I couldn't actually breathe in through my nose when I was stuffed up, the thinking of doing so set me up well for the breathing out part. And once I got that down, it was explained that blowing a nose is breathing out really hard when there's stuff in it.

I think I got it down when I was about your daughter's age, and I remember being really confused until I heard the breathing explanation.
posted by zizzle at 9:51 AM on June 10, 2011

It might not be good to blow your nose.

Also, according to some patient ed. sites, it's preferable to "sniff and swallow" to clear nasal congestion because blowing can aggravate the inflammation that makes nasal passages swell, and swelling rather than excess mucus is supposedly what causes most "stuffy nose" symptoms.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:52 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

My 4-year old son is a great nose blower. I tell him to launch the rocket while holding one nostril shut.

My 5-year old daughter, howerver, just refuses to blow her nose no matter what I say.
posted by Dragonness at 10:09 AM on June 10, 2011

I think I read somewhere that learning to use a straw to blow bubbles in a glass of water is a good way to start, then transfer that ability to nose-blowing.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:15 AM on June 10, 2011

I mean: learning to use a straw to blow bubbles in a glass of water with your nose.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:15 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I didn't really get the hang of it until I was 9 or 10 because I wasn't blowing hard enough. My 4th grade teacher taught me to plug one nostril by holding it closed and blow as hard as I could and that worked. I still do it this way. I guess some of us just don't have the lung capacity to clear both nostrils at once.
posted by Mrs.Spiffy at 10:15 AM on June 10, 2011

It might help to explain that it's easiest when the holes through which air passes (mouth, nostrils) aren't open to the max. So keep the mouth closed, push one nostril closed, and try blowing through the other. You can even close the mouth, one nostril, and push the other nostril halfway closed. It'll give her blowing a lot more power.
posted by desertface at 10:28 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Still strongly dislike doing it, not very good at it, and past 40. She may be okay never getting it.
posted by scruss at 10:28 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Still haven't learned it here at the age of 19.
posted by SollosQ at 10:31 AM on June 10, 2011

The candle and the straw are both good tips.

We taught our son to blow out through his nose only by holding a spoon sideways against his upper lip and having him blow out through his nose to fog up the spoon.

But, yeah, you can't teach it when the nose is already stuffy. Only when it's clear.
posted by anastasiav at 11:22 AM on June 10, 2011

Was in my 20s when I learned, and still don't do it particularly well. For some reason, it's easier for me to do it in the shower, I think because of the steam-- maybe try when she's in the bath?
posted by dizziest at 11:36 AM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Does or did she have a cleft palate? I can't blow my nose for that reason. I also can't breathe through it without concentrating. Does she breathe through her nose or mouth?
posted by desjardins at 11:43 AM on June 10, 2011

I work with lots of preschoolers, and I hold a tissue to their nose and tell them to make the noisy KKKKK sound with their nose. I actually make a hawking-up-junk sound.

If she's having trouble blowing air out of her nose, you can get a mirror or a piece of paper and hold it in front of her nose. If she breathes out her nose on the mirror, it will fog up. If she breathes out her nose with the paper, it will flap. Or, you could hold the tissue in front of her nose, and tell her to make it flap.

Not sure if it's worth all the trouble, though.
posted by shortyJBot at 11:47 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just saw the post title! Thhhhhhrt is a much better sound description!
posted by shortyJBot at 11:48 AM on June 10, 2011

er, thrrrrrrrt, that is.
posted by shortyJBot at 11:48 AM on June 10, 2011

When my first baby was born, my family doctor informed me that most people do not learn how to blow their noses until at least age 6. She said that sometimes kids figure it out for a little while or how to do it with help, but most are not capable of doing it safely and properly till age 6, according to some journal article that she read.

That always stuck with me, since it was sort of awful to be dabbing at my babe's first cold and thinking i would be doing it for 6+ more years! :)
posted by acoutu at 11:59 AM on June 10, 2011

My 10 year old daughter still won't blow her nose. She can force air out, just not with enough pressure to dislodge anything.

I taught my younger son to blow his nose by using bubbles. I showed him how I could make bubbles come out of the wand with my mouth closed and he thought it was hilarious and wanted to do it himself. When it came time to blow his nose I just told him to pretend he was blowing bubbles. I tried the same thing with my daughter and it didn't work, so YMMV.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:04 PM on June 10, 2011

Similar to the candle - put a cotton ball on the table and blow it across with your nose. Can be done as a race for extra fun. Blow like a dragon (with sound effects of course) eventually got results at our place too.
posted by Cuke at 12:19 PM on June 10, 2011

Such a hard skill to learn but once he figures it out he will be golden. We have tried asking kids to pretend they are a bunny rabbit (gets the snot moving back and forth and sometimes out). Also, a neti pot or nasal lavage can get you through til someone says the magic words.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 12:51 PM on June 10, 2011

I never understood the nose-blowing thing when I was a kid. Eventually (I can't recall quite when) I figured out that in order to achieve the necessary expulsive force I had to pinch one nostril shut, or both nostrils partway shut. So maybe get her to try that?

If she is also having problems with the idea of blowing out through her nose, you could get her a nose flute for better feedback.
posted by fermion at 1:20 PM on June 10, 2011

One more data point, I also had difficulty blowing my nose until my twenties. I also have always had diffculty holding my breath underwater without pinching my nose shut (I still do it). Not sure if these two points are related.
posted by smitt at 1:29 PM on June 10, 2011

I had great success helping my kids blow their noses by holding a tissue loosely over the nose, saying "blow!" and then wiggling my hand back and forth -- the resulting "wubba wubba wubba" noise is hilarious and motivational, and it does remove snot. Since their job is just to expel air, its easier. After a while they are able to take on the other parts of the task like holding the kleenex themselves.
posted by selfmedicating at 9:26 PM on June 10, 2011

When teaching children to put their faces in water I always said "Talk to the fishies with your nose." (Then they were to turn their heads and listen to the fishies.) Maybe you could ask your daughter to talk to the tissue with her nose.
posted by Mertonian at 11:55 AM on June 11, 2011

OK so as a child I COULD blow my nose but refused to do so and proclaimed ignorance because I hated how it felt. A lot. And I always felt afterwards like I had snot on my face. SO I would not do it in public, much to the ire and consternation of my mother and grandmother. I did, however grow out of it. And blew my nose in private as a child. It is kind of an intuitive thing, your kid will get it herself. And perhaps choose when she wishes to do it, as well.
posted by hepta at 12:51 PM on June 11, 2011

Another data point:I still don't blow my nose. I'm in my late 40s...
posted by wittgenstein at 2:56 PM on June 11, 2011

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