Various remedies can help a person get rid of a stuffy nose. Ways of treating a stuffy nose and relieving discomfort include steam inhalation, using a saline spray, taking over-the-counter (OTC) medication, and using essential oils.

When the body reacts to an unknown substance — such as dust, an allergen, or a virus — it launches an immune response, and inflammation can arise.

Nasal congestion develops when inflammation affects the blood vessels inside the nose, and the nasal tissues swell. A buildup of mucus may also occur.

This article will look at a range of tips for managing a stuffy nose, from steam inhalation to using decongestants. There is limited scientific evidence to confirm that many of these methods work, but some people may find them useful.

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Many people with nasal congestion find that inhaling steam helps them feel better. They may use a bowl of plain water, adding chamomile or peppermint oil, or take a warm shower.

People should take care not to use boiling water, however, and they should always place the container on a flat, level surface.

The warmth and moisture can be soothing to the membranes inside the nose, providing temporary relief. There is also a theory that it allows mucus to drain better and that it may help kill the virus. However, science has not confirmed these theories, and there is no evidence to suggest that it improves symptoms.

The results of an older 2016 trial suggested that steam did not have an impact on nasal congestion due to recurrent sinusitis. Also, a 2017 review found no evidence to suggest that steam can either benefit or harm a person with a common cold.

Using saline spray may help decrease tissue inflammation in the nose and reduce stuffiness.

The authors of an older 2016 study concluded that nasal irrigation with saline spray appears to have some benefit for people with nasal congestion due to chronic sinusitis.

Saline-only sprays do not contain medication, so they are usually safe to use during pregnancy. However, a person should check with a medical professional before using them. Saline sprays are available OTC and online.

Learn how to make saline solution at home.

People can use neti pots to flush the sinuses and help relieve dry nasal passages.

A person can use these devices to apply salt water or a saline solution. They can help flush out and moisten the nostrils.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warn people to take the following precautions to reduce the risk of infection:

  • Use only distilled, sterile, or previously boiled and cooled water.
  • Follow the instructions for the device with care.
  • Ensure that the device is clean and completely dry when not in use.
  • Wash and dry the hands before use.
  • Ask a doctor before using the device if the person has a weakened immune system or is a child.

Tap water can contain bacteria. It is not suitable for use in a neti pot or any other flushing device.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), applying a warm compress may help relieve pressure in the sinuses.

To prepare a warm compress:

  • Soak a washcloth in water that is warm but not hot.
  • Wring out any extra water.
  • Apply to the nose or forehead.

Some people like to add sliced fresh ginger to the water before soaking the washcloth.

Eucalyptus oil comes from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree. People have used it for medicinal purposes throughout history.

Certain components in eucalyptus oil may have healing properties and act as:

  • an antibacterial agent
  • an anti-inflammatory
  • a pain reliever
  • a sedative

Inhaling eucalyptus in steam or through a diffuser may help reduce nasal symptoms. To use, a person can add a few drops of oil to a bowl of hot water or follow the instructions on a diffuser.

Lozenges and rubs containing eucalyptus or methol may also help clear the nose.

People should never apply eucalyptus or other oils directly to the skin, as this may cause a reaction.

Although research suggests essential oils may have some health benefits, it is important to remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor or regulate the purity or quality of these oils. A person should talk with a healthcare professional before using essential oils and research the quality of a particular brand’s products. It is also important to always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.

Sometimes, an allergic reaction causes a stuffy nose. Allergy medications often contain an antihistamine that blocks this reaction.

An older 2015 review concluded that antihistamines might help manage the severity of symptoms in adults with a common cold in the first day or two of illness. However, in the following days, they were no more helpful than a placebo.

Various options are available online, but people should ask a healthcare professional for advice before using an antihistamine.

A person should read the directions on the package and be aware of side effects. Some allergy medications can cause drowsiness, for example, so people should not drive when using them.

Learn about natural antihistamines.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), decongestants help to decrease the swelling in the lining of the nose and may reduce the feeling of stuffiness.

An older 2016 review was unable to confirm that a single dose could help relieve the symptoms of a common cold in adults, but multiple doses may have a small benefit.

However, people should not use decongestants for longer than a week, as long-term use can actually worsen congestion.

Side effects can include increased heart rate, headache, and dry mouth. Nasal spray decongestants may also cause sneezing and burning inside the nose.

Anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, glaucoma, or another condition should ask a doctor if it is safe to use decongestants before doing so. They are not suitable for children under 6 years of age, and they may not be suitable during pregnancy.

Decongestants are available online or OTC, and some need a prescription. They come as nasal sprays, drops, tablets, or syrup.

Some people find that adding moisture to the air from a cool or warm mist humidifier provides relief. However, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that this works to soothe a common cold.

A person should keep a humidifier clean and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to prevent bacteria or mold from developing.

It is always a good idea to drink plenty of water, and some people say that this helps reduce nasal congestion.

However, experts have found no evidence to suggest that drinking additional fluids can help relieve symptoms, and they advise people to consume only what is comfortable.

That said, they do note that warm drinks may have a soothing effect.

Some other tips that may help include:

However, there is no substantial scientific evidence to support the methods above.

Various diseases and conditions can cause nasal congestion, including the following:

Nasal congestion is often temporary, and most people can treat it at home. However, if the symptoms persist or there are additional symptoms, it may be a good idea to seek medical help.

Some conditions that cause nasal congestion can also lead to complications. If a person has a viral infection, for example, they may also develop an ear infection, bronchitis, or sinusitis.

According to the NHS, a cough that lasts for more than 3 weeks and coughing up blood may indicate a more serious condition.

The NHS also advises that pregnant people, individuals with chronic health conditions, and people with weakened immune systems should also consider speaking with a doctor if they experience nasal congestion.

People who develop any of these symptoms may also want to contact a doctor to rule out a bacterial infection or another cause or complication:

Nasal congestion is a common symptom of common colds, seasonal allergies, and other illnesses. It can cause discomfort, but many home and OTC remedies can help ease this discomfort.

Not all of these remedies have scientific evidence to support their use, but many people say that they bring relief.

Anyone who has a persistently stuffy nose or additional symptoms, such as a fever, should seek medical advice.