Pediatric respiratory supplies don’t suck (but they do suction)

pediatric respiratory supplies

Suction machines and devices are pediatric respiratory supplies that remove mucus and fluids from the nose, mouth, or back of the throat. Suctioning is performed when a child is not able to cough up mucus and fluids that may be blocking the airways. A child may need suctioning when there are any of the following signs:

·         A choking or gurgling noise of secretions.

·         Difficulty breathing.

·         Persistent coughing.

·         The area surrounding the eyes, mouth, fingernails, or toenails turns blue or gray.

·         The chest or back appears to rattle when touched.

·         The child appears anxious, restless, or cries and can’t be comforted.

·         Increasing breathing or heart rate.

·         Flaring of nostrils.

·         The chest or neck retract.

·         The child says they need suctioning.

Before you go ahead and suction your child, he or she needs to be aware of what is going to happen so that they will be more cooperative. Use a language that the kid can understand. You can suction a child with a catheter or with a bulb syringe, following a different set of steps for each.


Bulb syringe

  1. Wash hands
  2. Assemble equipment

Water-soluble lubricant

Suction catheter kit

Suction machine

Normal saline for lavage

Sterile water

  1. Turn suction machine on
  2. Open suction catheter kit keeping contents sterile as you open it
  3. Put a bit of sterile water in the cup
  4. Put on gloves avoiding contact with anything not sterile
  5. Pick up suction catheter with one hand (the suctioning hand) and the tubing section with the other, and connect both ends
  6. Apply water-soluble lubricant to the end of suction catheter
  7. Keep thumb off thumb port while carefully passing the catheter into the nostril to the back of the throat
  8. Block thumb port with the thumb of your non-sterile hand and remove catheter to start suctioning
  9. Suction for 5-10 seconds, let the child rest 15-20 seconds, and suction again.
  10. Lavage with 3-5 drops of normal saline in to the nostril before suctioning if mucus is thick.
  11. The catheter may be used to suction the back of the throat – if necessary – after suctioning the nose. However, if you do this, don’t suction the nose again with the catheter
  12. Discard catheter kit
  13. Turn suction machine off
  14. Wash hands again
  1. Wash hands
  2. Squeeze bulb until it is collapsed
  3. Place tip in the nose or mouth and release bulb. This creates suction and draws mucus into the bulb
  4. Withdraw bulb syringe from the nose or mouth and squeeze into a tissue to get mucus out
  5. Wash bulb syringe in hot, soapy water, squeezing several times. Squeeze in clear, hot water to rinse
  6. Wash hands again



Among the most common pediatric respiratory supplies are tracheostomy tubes, or trach. Children with a trach also require suctioning at specific times of the day, namely:

·         When they wake up in the morning.

·         Before meals.

·         Before going to bed.

·         Before trach tube changes.

·         As needed after tube changes.

Moreover, children with a tracheostomy tube may need suctioning when there is mucus bubbling inside the tube, or a whistling sound is coming from the tube. They may also need suctioning if they present any of the signs listed above. 

Related Read: 

How to use a medical suction machine?