Nasal congestion is a common symptom that can be caused by several conditions and environmental factors. In most cases, it improves over time. However, it can also be treated using a combination of medications or home remedies.
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.
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 1-2 weeks.
If it lasts longer than 10-14 days, 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
- sinonasal tumors, though this is rare
- chemical exposures
- environmental irritants
- a long-lasting sinus infection, known as chronic sinusitis
- anatomic variants, such as a deviated septum, inferior turbinate hypertrophy, or concha bullosa
- enlarged adenoids
- gastroesophageal reflux disease, especially in infants
These changes may affect the nasal membranes, causing them to become inflamed, dry, or to bleed.
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 a 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 might choose to use an aspirator, or nasal bulb, afterward, depending on how well the saline flushes out the nasal passages. An aspirator is used to remove any remaining mucus from the baby’s nose.
A neti pot is a type of nasal irrigation device that is designed to help flush mucus from the nasal cavity using a saline solution.
In addition to a neti pot, nasal irrigation devices are also commonly available as squeeze bottles, which some people may find easier to use.
These devices are
Keep in mind that you should
Additionally, be sure to clean your neti pot or nasal irrigation device thoroughly after each use, replace it regularly, and talk to a doctor before using the device on children.
After a doctor has determined the cause of chronic nasal congestion, they can recommend a treatment plan. Treatment plans often include over-the-counter or prescription medication to resolve or alleviate symptoms.
Medications used to treat nasal congestion include:
- oral antihistamines
to treatallergies, such as loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec)
- nasal sprays that contain antihistamines, such as azelastine (Astelin, Astepro)
- nasal steroids, including budesonide (Rhinocort), fluticasone (Flonase), or triamcinolone (Nasacort)
- over-the-counter or prescription-strength decongestants, including nasal sprays, drops, or tablets
Keep in mind that certain nasal decongestant sprays, such as Afrin, should not be used for more than 3 days in a row, as it could cause nasal congestion to recur or worsen.
If you have nasal polyps in your nasal passages or sinuses that are keeping mucus from draining out, a doctor
If there are tumors in your nasal passages, a doctor might perform a biopsy to determine if they are malignant and may recommend surgery for removal.
Surgery may also be
Sometimes, home remedies aren’t enough to relieve congestion, particularly if your symptoms are caused by another health condition.
In this case, medical treatment may be needed, especially if your condition is painful and interfering with your everyday activities.
If you’ve experienced any of the following, see a doctor right away:
- congestion lasting longer than 2 weeks
- congestion accompanied by a high fever lasting more than 3 days
- green nasal discharge along with sinus pain and fever
- a weakened immune system, asthma, or emphysema
You should also see a doctor right away if you’ve had a recent head injury and are now having bloody nasal discharge or a constant flow of clear discharge.
If you need help finding a primary care doctor, then check out our FindCare tool here.
Nasal congestion is a common issue in children and infants. However, because infants
For these reasons, it’s best to contact a pediatrician right away if your infant has nasal congestion. This is especially important for infants under 3 months old and those with other symptoms, such as a persistent cough, fever, or breathing problems.
The pediatrician can then work with you to find the best treatment options for your baby.
Nasal congestion rarely causes major health problems and is most often caused by the common cold or a sinus infection. Symptoms usually improve right away with proper treatment.
If you experience chronic congestion, speak to a doctor to investigate the underlying problem and determine the best course of treatment.