Nasal congestion, commonly known as a stuffy nose, congested nose, or stopped-up nose, is a common health problem that affects millions of people. It occurs when there is a blockage of the nasal passage, usually when the membrane lining inside of the nose becomes swollen from inflamed blood vessels. While nasal congestion may just be a minor annoyance in older children and adults, in many infants, nasal congestion can pose serious health risks. Nasal congestion has many causes and ranges in severity.
Nasal congestion is commonly caused by allergic rhinitis, or hay fever. This occurs when pollen, dust, mold spores, or other allergens are inhaled and irritate the nasal passage. Other causes of nasal congestion include the common cold or flu, a deviated septum, sinusitis or sinus infections, reaction to certain medications. Additionally, nasal congestion occurs in many women during pregnancy. In many individuals, nasal congestion is caused by food allergies. Those who are lactose intolerant often find themselves suffering from a stuffy nose. Your doctor can conduct allergy tests to identify your specific type of food allergy and recommend a new diet. Reducing the amount of dairy in your diet in addition to carbohydrates and sugar can improve the quality of your diet and reduce nasal congestion.
A stuffy nose, or nasal congestion, is just, a feeling as though your nose is stuffed with something. Symptoms may include difficulty breathing through your nose, a runny nose, and sneezing. Those who suffer from severe nasal congestion can have trouble in sleeping, speaking, and hearing and even experience bothersome snoring.
When to See a Doctor
It is usually not necessary to see a doctor when you experience nasal congestion. You need to seek medical attention if you experience other symptoms such as blurred vision, swelling of the eyes or forehead, a cough that produces yellow or green mucus, a bloody nose, or if your congestion lasts longer than 2 weeks.
There are many home remedies used to relieve nasal congestion. Simple remedies include using an allergy filter in your air conditioner, using a vaporizer with additives such as vinegar, and dusting regularly. Dusting and allergy filters help to reduce nasal congestion caused by allergies and hay fever while vaporizers work to open the sinuses up using steam.
Many home remedies for relieving nasal congestion center around spicy or strong foods. In many cultures, chicken soup is the perfect cure for nasal congestion. Adding black or red pepper in the chicken soup can help to open up the sinuses, allowing for the inflammation of the nose to decrease. Many spicy foods such as curries, Chinese soups, and Mexican dishes contain peppers and spices that can help relieve congestion. These foods may cause your nose to run, so be sure to keep tissues near you.
Vapor rub contains menthol, which helps to temporarily open the nasal passages. Rub a small amount of the vapor rub on your chest or under nostrils works to soothe and relieve congestion. There are many different brands of vapor rub, but all are very similar so any brand will work.
Drinking hot drinks such as green tea can help to reduce nasal congestion. The steam from the drink opens up the nasal passages and many warm liquids such as tea or chicken soup are old cures for colds. Try to avoid consuming too much caffeine as it can cause congestion to worsen.
Elevate Your Head
Often, nighttime can be the worst period for nasal congestion. Lying down can also aggravate nasal congestion. Elevating your head with extra pillows at night can help the nose to drain better and open up clogged nasal passages.
Placing a hot, moist towel under your eyes encourages sinus drainage. This can relieve congestion and pain associated with allergies or a cold. You can apply warm compresses several times a day as needed to relieve the congestion. Gently pressing on the hot compress can shift the facial bones to allow for better sinus drainage.
When you have nasal congestion, often the best relief is taking a hot shower. The steam from the shower opens up the nasal passageways. You can boil a pot of water on the stove and carefully breathe in the steam to help reduce nasal congestion.
Tomato tea works to open the sinuses and give the body a much-needed boost of vitamin C to help improve the immune system. Combine a cup of tomato juice, V8 works great, a teaspoon of minced garlic, ½ a teaspoon of hot sauce, and a teaspoon of lemon juice. You can heat the ingredients in a pot on the stove or in a container in the microwave. Be sure to drink the tomato tea hot. The tomato juice contains large amounts of vitamin C, which helps the immune system. Garlic also works to help fight infection. The hot sauce works to open up the sinuses and reduce nasal congestion.
Oil of Oregano
Oil of oregano is an essential oil known for its ability to strengthen the immune system and improve respiratory health. You can add 2 or 3 drops of oil of oregano to your favorite juice and drink it 3 or 4 times a day to treat nasal congestion. The juice can help boost the immune system in addition to the oil of oregano. You can also add 8 drops of oil of oregano to hot water and breathe in the steam. This will help to open up the nasal passageways to reduce nasal congestion.
Nasal sprays are a great way to relieve the pressure and difficulty breathing associated with nasal congestion. These sprays can be purchased over the counter, prescribed by a physician, or even homemade.
Nasal sprays such as Afrin offer decongestant properties and work to quickly relieve the nose of congestion. Zicam and Vicks offer a more natural nasal spray. The side effects of these over-the-counter sprays include dizziness, burning, drying of the sinuses, and sneezing. These sprays are available at most supermarkets, drug stores, and pharmacies. Costing approximately $6 US per bottle, over-the-counter sprays are an inexpensive cure for nasal congestion.
For more severe cases of congestion, a physician may prescribe a nasal spray. Products such as Nasonex and Omnaris offer relief from allergies and allergy-caused nasal congestion. Atrovent is used to treat severe nasal congestion in individuals who also suffer from lung problems such as COPD and emphysema.
Side effects of these medications include:
- Increased heart rate
- Bitter taste
Prescription nasal sprays can be expensive; however, many insurance companies or prescription medical plans can assist in reducing the cost of these medications. Do not take these sprays if you have certain heart conditions, are on medication for hypertension, have high blood pressure, or have thyroid disease.
Saline spray is one of the most common treatments for nasal congestion. It is available in supermarkets, drug stores, and grocery stores. You can even make your own saline solution easily and with little cost. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and pour in 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. Stir lightly until the salt and baking soda is diluted, leaving the water a bit cloudy in color. Allow the solution to cool until it is at room temperature and place in a clean and sterilized 8-ounce container. You can use this solution in a neti pot or with a nasal bulb.
Tea Tree Oil
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add approximately 8 drops of tea tree oil. Pour the tea tree oil solution into a bowl and inhale the steam. You can place a towel over your head to create a tent, which will catch the vapors and help to open up the sinus passages.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Placing 8 ounces of warm water into a glass bowl or container, add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a ¼ teaspoon of non-iodized salt. Mix the solution together until the salt has dissolved. Gently tilt your head back and use an eyedropper or nasal bulb to put the solution into your nasal cavity. Breath deeply with your head back, ensuring the solution is able to work to clear the congestion. Then, blow your nose; this will rid your nose of mucus and congestion.
Decongestant pills work to alleviate the nose of congestion. Psuedophedrine and phenylephrine are the most common active ingredients in decongestant pills. Phenylephrine acts directly to reduce inflammation while pseudophedrine acts indirectly on the adrenergic receptors, which helps to reduce the swelling of the blood vessels in the nose. Decongestants are typically paired with antihistamines to treat the two main causes of nasal congestion. Some common brands of decongestants are Claritin D, Sudafed, and Mucinex D.
These pills can be purchased at local supermarkets, drug stores, and pharmacies. They are relatively inexpensive, costing $8 to $12 US per box, depending on the amount and dosage size. The side effects of these medications include dizziness, anxiety, fatigue, stomach cramps, nervousness, and an increased heart rate. Do not take decongestant pills if you certain heart conditions, are on asthma medication, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease.
Those with a weakened or suppressed immune system, young children, infants, and the elderly are at a higher risk of contracting the flu or a cold. This can lead to nasal congestion. Those with allergic rhinitis are extremely likely to suffer from chronic and prolonged nasal congestion. Women who are pregnant can experience nasal congestion due to the increased blood flow throughout the body. Newborn infants often suffer from nasal congestion, which can potentially be harmful. Infants can only breathe through their noses and nasal congestion can interfere with breastfeeding or cause difficulty breathing.
Preventing nasal congestion can be easy. In the winter months, be sure to keep your home comfortably humid with a humidifier. Dry air can aggravate the nasal passageways and cause inflammation. Dusting and riding your home of pollen, dust mites, pet dander, mold, and fungi can reduce exposure to harmful allergens that can cause congestion. Consuming vitamin C can help to boost the immune system to prevent colds. Colds and the flu commonly cause nasal congestion; with a healthy immune system, you are less likely to experience bothersome nasal congestion.
What to Avoid
Certain foods and activities can aggravate and worsen nasal congestion. Always avoid consuming alcohol when experiencing nasal congestion. Alcohol can dry out the nasal passage and increase the rick of inflammation of the blood vessels in the nose. Additionally, avoid swimming in chlorine pools. The chlorine can irritate the mucus membranes in your nose and cause inflammation.
Many foods can cause a stuffy nose, so try to avoid food such as ice cream, cheese, and milk when you have nasal congestion. Caffeine can irritate and dry the nasal passages, further causing nasal congestion.