How to Clear a Stuffy Nose: What You Need to Know
Dealing with a stuffy nose can be bothersome, making even basic activities like having conversations, sleeping, breathing, and smelling things a real struggle. Common causes of a clogged nose can range from colds and allergies to flu and sinus infections.
Whether you have persistent year-round congestion or the occasional cold-induced stuffiness, knowing how to get rid of a stuffy nose will help alleviate this uncomfortable symptom. Below, we dive into the causes, symptoms, and treatments that can help you get rid of your stuffy nose.
What Is A Stuffy Nose (Nasal Congestion)?
Nasal congestion is a feeling of pressure in your nose or entire face. Nasal congestion occurs when the tissues lining the inside of your nose become swollen due to inflammation of blood vessels. Nasal congestion happens when something irritates your nasal passage lining.
The irritation triggers inflammation and excess mucus production, making it difficult to breathe through the nose.
What Causes A Stuffy Nose?
Anything from allergies to viruses and infections can cause a stuffy nose. If you have nasal congestion, it’s best to identify the underlying cause to find the appropriate treatment and alleviate your symptoms. Below are some of the most common causes:
Allergic reactions can trigger inflammation in your nose, causing it to become stuffy. If you have allergic rhinitis or hay fever, your congestion may increase when exposed to pollen from trees, weeds, and grass. Other allergens, such as dust mites, pet dander, and mold, can trigger your allergies, leading to a stuffy nose.
Cold and Flu
Both cold and flu are caused by viruses that infect the upper respiratory tract, and they share many symptoms, including a runny or stuffy nose. When cold and flu viruses multiply in the nasal passages, your body triggers an immune response that inflames the nasal linings, leading to congestion.
A sinus infection occurs when your nasal passages become inflamed due to bacteria or a virus. The inflammation causes an increase in mucus production and swelling of the tissues lining your nose, resulting in congestion. It blocks mucus from draining normally and causes pressure on your face and forehead.
A deviated septum is a common cause of a stuffy nose that occurs when the thin wall between your two nostrils (the nasal septum) bends to one side, blocking the nasal passage. This causes the affected nasal passage to narrow and restrict airflow, leading to congestion.
Nasal polyps are noncancerous growths that form on the lining of your nasal passages and sinuses. They can cause nasal congestion due to their size, blocking the nasal passageways completely or partially.
Nasal Congestion Symptoms
Nasal congestion can cause a range of symptoms, including:
- Difficulty breathing through your nose
- Mucus buildup
- Postnasal drip
- Coughing and sore throat
- Bad breath
- Sinus pressure or facial pain
- Runny nose
In most cases, the symptoms of nasal congestion will go away on their own in a few days or weeks. Before then, they might make you feel tired and uncomfortable.
Why Is My Nose Always Stuffy?
If your nose is always stuffy, it could be because you're constantly exposed to an allergen, an environmental irritant, or other triggers that inflame the nasal passage. For instance, you could have nasal congestion if your work environment has fumes and dust.
In some cases, the cause of your stuffy nose could be an underlying health issue, such as allergies. For example, if you have perennial allergies, you may have a stuffy nose all year due to exposure to indoor allergens such as dust mites and mold.
How to Sleep with a Stuffy Nose?
Sleeping with a stuffy nose can be uncomfortable. The condition can make it difficult to breathe and relax at night resulting in reduced quality of sleep and leaving you feeling tired during the day. Here are some tips on how to sleep with a stuffy nose:
- Elevate your head slightly when sleeping by propping up pillows or using an adjustable bed frame
- Take a hot shower and use a humidifier in your bedroom to keep the air moist
- Take allergy medication before bed, such as an antihistamine
- Diffuse essential oil in your bedroom
- Rub essential oil or menthol on your chest
- Use a nasal strip
These simple practices can help you breathe easier and get a better night's sleep.
How to Get Rid of Stuffy Nose
Fortunately, there are many ways to clear a stuffy nose. Here are some effective treatment options you can try:
You don't always have to reach for over-the-counter (OTC) medication. The following simple home remedies may be able to reduce your stuffy nose:
- Nasal wash: Using a neti pot or nasal irrigation kit to rinse the inside of your nose once or twice a day will instantly relieve stuffiness in your nose. You can buy a neti pot and saline solution from your local drugstore. Alternatively, you can make the saline solution by mixing a half teaspoon of salt, a pinch of baking soda (optional), and one cup of warm, distilled water.
- Steam inhalation: Steam opens the nasal passage and allows mucus to drain out. Boil a pot of water and place your face over it. Drape a towel over your head, and breathe in the steam.
- A warm compress: A warm compress can reduce inflammation in the nose and make breathing easier. Apply a warm washcloth to your forehead or nose for a few minutes.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids will help keep your nasal mucus thin and runny, allowing it to drain more easily.
If your stuffy nose persists after trying the above home remedies, you may want to consult your doctor and consider taking OTC medications. Here are some commonly used medications for a stuffy nose:
Decongestants: Decongestants can reduce the inflammation in your nasal passages and the pain that comes with it. You can use decongestant nasal sprays such as phenylephrine (Sinex) and oxymetazoline (Afrin) or decongestant pills such as pseudoephedrine (Sudogest, Sudafed). However, you shouldn’t use decongestants for more than three days without a physician’s supervision.
Antihistamines: Antihistamines will help if allergies are causing your nasal congestion. They work by temporarily blocking the effect of histamine, a chemical released by your body during an allergic reaction. Common antihistamines include loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec).
Corticosteroid nasal sprays: These are steroid-based medications that can reduce inflammation in the nose and open airways. Commonly used sprays include fluticasone (Flonase) and mometasone (Nasonex).
If allergies are causing your stuffy nose, you may benefit from sublingual immunotherapy. The treatment involves placing a tablet or liquid drops containing small doses of allergens under your tongue. Over time, these doses will desensitize your body to the allergens and reduce or eliminate the symptoms of allergies, including nasal congestion.
How to Prevent Nasal Congestion
Prevention is possible, especially if your stuffy nose results from exposure to allergens. Here are some tips to help you keep your nose healthy and free of congestion:
- Stay indoors when the pollen count is high
- Keep windows closed during the high pollen season
- Clean your home frequently to reduce the amount of dust and other allergens
- Keep your pets out of the bedroom if you are allergic to them
- Use dust mite-proof covers on your mattress and pillows
- Change air filters in your home frequently to reduce dust and allergens.
- Wear a mask when you’re outside to help protect against pollen and other airborne particles.
If allergies are not the cause of your stuffy nose, you can make some simple changes to reduce the likelihood of nasal congestion. For instance, you can avoid smoke and other irritants. You should also wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your nose and mouth to reduce the spread of cold and flu viruses.
When to See a Doctor
You should see a doctor for a stuffy nose if:
- You notice swelling on your eyes, cheek, forehead, or side of the nose
- You have intense throat pain
- You have a foul-smelling discharge from your nose, and it has a green or yellow color
- You have a fever
The physician will be able to determine the cause of your symptoms and provide the appropriate treatment.
Take Our Allergy Assessment
If you suffer from nasal congestion due to allergies Wyndly can help. At Wyndly, our allergy doctors will create a personalized treatment plan for you to retrain your immune system and reduce your allergy symptoms. Take our online assessment today to see how Wyndly can help you.