Nasal congestion can develop when the blood vessels inside the nose become inflamed and the nasal tissues swell. Excess mucus drainage may also occur with a stuffy nose.
This article will look at possible treatments for a stuffy nose.
Treatments to relieve a stuffy nose
A stuffy nose can make people feel awful. Those who are all stuffed up want relief quickly so that they can breathe easily again. Fortunately, there are many treatments for a stuffy nose, ranging from home remedies to medications.
1. Hit the shower
Taking a hot shower can help decrease nasal congestion. The steam from the shower may help mucus drain from the nose and improve breathing.
Although the benefits of the steam may not last, it will at least provide temporary relief.
2. Try a saline spray
A saline spray may help decrease tissue inflammation in the nose and reduce stuffiness.
Saline-only sprays do not contain medication, so they are usually safe to use during pregnancy. Over the counter (OTC) saline sprays are available.
3. Flush out the sinuses
There are different devices on the market, such as a neti pot, which can be used to flush the sinuses.
Neti pots have been used for hundreds of years to clear the nasal passages of mucus.
People can also use a saline solution to flush the mucus out of each nostril.
Distilled or previously boiled water that has cooled should be used to avoid bacteria from tap water entering the nose.
4. Apply a warm compress
A warm compress may decrease sinus congestion and that stuffy feeling in the nose and face.
People can wet a washcloth with very warm water and apply it to the face. They just need to be sure the water is not so hot that it burns the skin.
Some people add sliced fresh ginger to the water before soaking the washcloth.
5. Try eucalyptus oil
Eucalyptus oil is made from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree. The oil has been used for hundreds of years for its healing properties.
Inhaling the oil can decrease inflammation of the nasal lining and make breathing easier. Simply place a few drops of the oil in a pot of boiling water and inhale the steam.
6. Take allergy medicine
In some cases, a stuffy nose is due to an allergic reaction. Allergy medications may contain an antihistamine that blocks this reaction.
Users should be sure to read the directions on the package and be aware of side effects. Some allergy medications can cause drowsiness, so driving should be avoided.
7. Use a decongestant
Decongestants may also be an option to decrease nasal congestion. They work by causing the small blood vessels in the nose to narrow. The narrowing decreases swelling in the lining of the nose and reduces stuffiness.
Decongestants are available in pill form and nasal sprays. Nasal sprays may work faster since they do not have to be absorbed by the stomach. OTC and prescription medications are available.
Anyone with high blood pressure should ask their doctor first if it is safe to take decongestants.
8. Use a humidifier
The added moisture in the air from a cool or warm mist humidifier can thin the mucus in the nose. This makes draining easier. A cool mist may also reduce inflammation of the mucous membranes inside the nose.
It's important to keep a humidifier clean to prevent bacteria growing. People should always follow the manufacturer's cleaning recommendations.
9. Stay hydrated
Making sure to drink enough water is always important; with a stuffed nose, it is even more important.
Being well-hydrated thins the mucus of the nasal passages and helps push fluid from the nose, decreasing pressure in the sinuses.
When the pressure is reduced, there will be less inflammation and irritation.
10. Other methods
Because having a stuffy nose is so common, there are a range of alternative methods that some people have found to relieve the sensation. Although evidence is lacking they include:
- Horseradish - snacking on this spicy vegetable is believed by some to help clear the passages.
- DIY acupressure - applying light pressure to the bridge of the nose with the thumb and index finger. At the same time, with the other hand, grab the muscles at either side of the back of the neck.
- Facial massage - giving the sinuses a gentle massage with the fingers may relieve some symptoms.
- Apple cider vinegar - mix a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar into a glass of water and drink.
- Peppermint tea - menthol may reduce stuffiness.
Causes of a stuffy noseIn many cases, nasal congestion is only a temporary problem. So what causes that stuffed up feeling? Some of the following conditions can lead to a stuffy nose:
The common cold, which is due to a viral infection, is one of the most common causes of a stuffy nose. There are several viruses that can cause a cold, with the rhinovirus being the most common.
In addition to a stuffy nose, a cold may also cause sneezing, sore throat, and cough.
Allergic rhinitis occurs when the body's immune system overreacts to a substance that is usually not harmful. Common triggers of allergic rhinitis include pollen, dust, and pet dander.
Besides a stuffy nose, symptoms may include sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy eyes. It's not clear why some people develop allergic rhinitis, but having a family history of allergies is a risk factor.
Occupational rhinitis is similar to allergic rhinitis. It can develop when someone has a reaction to a substance in their work environment. Symptoms may include stuffy nose, itchy eyes, and coughing. People who work around chemicals, wood dust, and grain may be at an increased risk of developing occupational rhinitis.
Pregnancy affects many parts of the body, and that can include the nose. During pregnancy, hormones including progesterone and estrogen increase. The rise in hormones along with increased blood flow can cause swelling of the mucous membranes inside the nose. Symptoms may include stuffy nose and sneezing.
Pregnancy rhinitis can occur at any time during pregnancy. Symptoms usually go away shortly after delivery.
Atrophic rhinitis occurs when there is thinning and hardening of the mucous membranes inside the nose. The thinning tissues make it easier for bacteria to grow and lead to an infection. Crusts also may form inside the nose.
The condition is most common in people who have had multiple nose surgeries.
Accompanying symptoms and when to see a doctor
In most cases, a stuffy nose is not a cause for concern..
When someone has a stuffy nose, it may be accompanied by other symptoms. It's common to also have sneezing and a dripping nose. Nasal congestion can also lead to a headache in some people.
Although it can be uncomfortable, a stuffy nose is nothing to worry about in most cases. Still, there may be times when it's best to see a doctor, such as if symptoms don't seem to be going away.
The amount of time it takes for symptoms to improve may depend on the cause but most people recover from a cold in about 10 days. If symptoms continue for more than 10 days, it may be time to see a doctor.
Addition symptoms to watch for that may signal something more serious than a stuffy nose include:
- green mucus draining from the nose
- facial pain
- pain in the ear
- chest tightness
People who develop any of the symptoms above may want to see their doctor to rule out a bacterial infection or any other complication.