Nasal congestion, also called a stuffy nose, is often a symptom of another health problem such as a sinus infection. It may also be caused by the common cold.
Nasal congestion is marked by:
• a stuffy or runny nose
• sinus pain
• mucus buildup
• swollen nasal tissue
Home remedies may be enough to alleviate nasal congestion, particularly if it’s caused by the common cold. However, if you experience long-term congestion, you may need medical treatment.
Causes of nasal congestion
Congestion is when your nose becomes stuffed up and inflamed. Minor illnesses are the most common causes of nasal congestion. For instance, a cold, the flu, and sinus infections can all cause stuffy noses. Illness-related congestion usually improves within one week.
If it lasts longer than one week, it’s often a symptom of an underlying health issue. Some explanations for long-term nasal congestion may be:
• hay fever
• noncancerous growths, called nasal polyps, or benign tumors in the nasal passages
• chemical exposures
• environmental irritants
• a long-lasting sinus infection, known as chronic sinusitis
• a deviated septum
Nasal congestion may also occur during pregnancy, usually during the end of the first trimester. Hormonal fluctuations and increased blood supply that occur during pregnancy may cause this nasal congestion.
These changes may affect the nasal membranes, causing them to become inflamed, dry, or to bleed.
Home remedies for nasal congestion
Home remedies can help when you’re experiencing nasal congestion.
Humidifiers that add moisture to the air may help to break up mucus and soothe inflamed nasal passageways. However, if you have asthma, ask your doctor before using a humidifier.
Propping your head up on pillows can also encourage mucus to flow out of your nasal passages.
Saline sprays are safe for all ages, but for babies you’ll need to use an aspirator, or nasal bulb, afterward. An aspirator is used to remove any remaining mucus from the baby’s nose.
Infants and children
Nasal congestion can be more threatening in infants than in older children and adults. Symptoms can interfere with infant feedings and can even lead to fatal breathing problems. It may also prevent normal speech and hearing development.
For these reasons, it’s important to contact your pediatrician right away if your infant has nasal congestion. Your doctor can then work with you to find the best treatment options for your baby.
Regardless of the reason for your stuffed-up nose, there are easy ways to relieve it. Here are six things you can do now to feel and breathe better.
1. Use a humidifier
A humidifier provides a quick, easy way to reduce sinus pain and relieve a stuffy nose. The machine converts water to moisture that slowly fills the air, increasing the humidity in a room. Breathing in this moist air can soothe irritated tissues and swollen blood vessels in your nose and sinuses. Humidifiers also thin the mucus in your sinuses. This can help empty the fluids in your nose and return your breathing to normal. Put a humidifier in your room to ease the inflammation causing your congestion.
2. Take a shower
Have you ever had a stuffy nose and found that you could breathe so much better after a hot shower? There’s a good reason for that. The steam from a shower helps to thin out the mucus in your nose and reduce inflammation. Taking a hot shower can help your breathing return to normal, at least for a little while.
You can get the same effect by breathing in steam from hot water in a sink. Here’s how: Turn on the hot water in your bathroom sink. Once the temperature is right, place a towel over your head and put your head over the sink. Allow the steam to build, and take in deep breaths. Be careful not to burn your face on the hot water or steam.
3. Stay hydrated
Keep the fluids flowing when your nose is stuffed up. Almost all liquids can help keep you hydrated when you’re sick, including water, sports drinks, and even juice. They help thin the mucus in your nasal passages, pushing the fluids out of your nose and decreasing the pressure in your sinuses. Less pressure means less inflammation and irritation.
If your stuffy nose is accompanied by a sore throat, warm tea and soup will help ease the discomfort in your throat, too.
4. Use a saline spray
Take hydration one step further with saline, a saltwater solution. Using a nasal saline spray can increase the moisture in your nostrils. The spray helps thin the mucus in your nasal passages. This decreases the inflammation of your blood vessels and helps empty fluids from your nose. Numerous saline sprays are available over the counter.
Some saline sprays also include decongestant medication. Talk to your doctor before you begin using saline sprays with decongestants. They may actually make your congestion worse if used for more than three days. They can also cause side effects when used along with other medications.
5. Drain your sinuses
It’s not the most glamorous task, but you can flush your clogged nostrils with a neti pot. A neti pot is a container designed to flush mucus and fluids out of your nasal passages. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends using distilled or sterile water instead of tap water.
Here’s how to use a neti pot: Stand with your head over a sink. Place the spout of the neti pot in one nostril. Tilt the neti pot until water enters your nasal passage. Once the water flows into your nostril, it will come out through your other nostril and empty into the sink. Do this for about one minute, and then switch sides.
6. Use a warm compress
A warm compress may help unclog a stuffy nose by opening the nasal passages from the outside. To make a warm compress, first soak a towel in warm water. Squeeze the water out of the towel, then fold it and place it over your nose and forehead. The warmth can provide comfort from any pain and help relieve the inflammation in the nostrils. Repeat this as often as necessary.
www.healthline.com ( What Causes a Stuffy Nose?) Written by Kristeen Moore — Updated on July 3, 2019
(How to Clear a Stuffy Nose ) Written by Kimberly Holland — Updated on March 7, 2019