The Sniffles

The Scene: 1976. I am running home from Grade One at the end of the day at top speed, crying.

I pass my older sister, who has been invited to sit on the front porch of gorgeous, blonde Sharon Barnes’ house and wait with Sharon for her mother to come home and unlock the door.

Me, to my sister: HELP ME!

Sister: What’s going on?


Sister: I don’t have a tissue.

Sharon: Just sniffle.


Sharon comes down off the porch, takes a few steps out into the driveway.

Sharon: Sniffle. You know, like suck it back.

Me: I can’t, I CAN’T.

Sharon: Just pretend like you are going to breathe in, really hard, like this.

She demonstrates a gorgeous, golden-blonde snort.

I give a half-hearted attempt.


I continue to race home, snot running down my face, too young to understand that the crying is only making things worse. But slowly the crying subsides, as I discover that this sniffling thing is quite effective when done with passion and heart. Plus, the sleeve of one’s coat can be useful in such a situation.


The Scene: 2015. I am awakened at 1 a.m. by the Little Miss, whose nose has been running like a faucet for weeks. This is already the fourth time she has been up tonight.

Little Miss: Mommy? I’m doing a weird breathing thing and I can’t sleep!

Me: Okay honey. Let’s go to the bathroom and sit.

We go to the bathroom and sit, her on the closed toilet seat, me on the side of the bathtub. She continues to wipe and wipe her nose in the blue tone of the nightlight.

Little Miss: It just won’t stop! I blow and blow and blow and there’s always more!

Me: It’ll be okay, honey. Try not to cry, it doesn’t help. Now, I want you to try something new tonight. Close your mouth tight, and try to force yourself to breathe through your nose.

Little Miss: But it’s totally plugged!

Me: I know, but sometimes you can clear at least one side with a good sniffle. Now try.

She tries.

Little Miss: I can’t! I can’t!

Me: It’s okay, I know it’s tough the first time. Just breathe through your mouth, quiet down. Then try again.

She tries again.

Little Miss: It feels like everything is packed in there now.

Me: I know. It’s not the greatest thing to do – you still need to blow it out if you can – but sometimes at night it’s easier to just sniffle it up, so you can clear one side and get some sleep.

Little Miss: I think one side is clearing now.

Me: Let’s try getting some sleep then, kay?

We return to our beds. She manages to get a couple of hours of sleep. This morning, we’re back to a combination of sniffling and blowing, sniffling and blowing, but at least she can breathe a bit. Many thanks, Sharon Barnes.

4 thoughts on “The Sniffles

  1. Ha! Have you tried kids’ Breathe Right strips? I figure they can’t hurt (no medication) and for my kids they always gave enough of a placebo effect to let them fall asleep.

  2. TD

    Have you tried Saline rinses? I use them during allergy season for the same reason. You can get premade ones, or you can get ones that you mix the saline in the bottle with warm water. They help clear out the sinuses so they don’t run as much. just watch though – there are child size bottles and adult bottles.

  3. Zhu

    OMG. We are the same at home right now. The change of weather has been brutal and the worst part is, there is nothing we can do, we are all sniffing like Coke addicts. Which we are not. Unless we are talking about Coke Zero.

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