A stuffy nose can be annoying. Your nose drips. You sound funny when you talk. And just when you want to blow your nose to finally breathe again, nothing comes out. Many people think a stuffy nose is the result of too much mucus in the nasal passages. However, a clogged nose is actually caused by inflamed blood vessels in the sinuses. These irritated vessels are usually triggered by a cold, the flu, allergies, or a sinus infection.
Regardless of the reason for your stuffed-up nose, there are easy ways to relieve it. Here are eight things you can do now to feel and breathe better.
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A humidifier provides a quick, easy way to reduce sinus pain and relieve a stuffy nose. The machine converts water to moisture that slowly fills the air, increasing the humidity in a room. Breathing in this moist air can soothe irritated tissues and swollen blood vessels in your nose and sinuses. Humidifiers also thin the mucus in your sinuses. This can help empty the fluids in your nose and return your breathing to normal. Put a humidifier in your room to ease the inflammation causing your congestion.
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Have you ever had a stuffy nose and found that you could breathe so much better after a hot shower? There’s a good reason for that. The steam from a shower helps to thin out the mucus in your nose and reduce inflammation. Taking a hot shower can help your breathing return to normal, at least for a little while.
You can get the same effect by breathing in steam from hot water in a sink. Here’s how: Turn on the hot water in your bathroom sink. Once the temperature is right, place a towel over your head and put your head over the sink. Allow the steam to build, and take in deep breaths. Be careful not to burn your face on the hot water or steam.
Keep the fluids flowing when your nose is stuffed up. Almost all liquids can help keep you hydrated when you’re sick, including water, sports drinks, and even juice. They help thin the mucus in your nasal passages, pushing the fluids out of your nose and decreasing the pressure in your sinuses. Less pressure means less inflammation and irritation.
Take hydration one step further with saline, a saltwater solution. Using a nasal saline spray can increase the moisture in your nostrils. The spray helps thin the mucus in your nasal passages. This decreases the inflammation of your blood vessels and helps empty fluids from your nose. Numerous saline sprays are available over the counter.
Some saline sprays also include decongestant medication. Talk to your doctor before you begin using saline sprays with decongestants. They may actually make your congestion worse if used for more than three days. They can also cause side effects when used along with other medications.
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It’s not the most glamorous task, but you can flush your clogged nostrils with a neti pot. A neti pot is a container designed to flush mucus and fluids out of your nasal passages. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends using distilled or sterile water instead of tap water.
Here’s how to use a neti pot: Stand with your head over a sink. Place the spout of the neti pot in one nostril. Tilt the neti pot until water enters your nasal passage. Once the water flows into your nostril, it will come out through your other nostril and empty into the sink. Do this for about one minute, and then switch sides.
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A warm compress may help unclog a stuffy nose by opening the nasal passages from the outside. To make a warm compress, first soak a towel in warm water. Squeeze the water out of the towel, then fold it and place it over your nose and forehead. The warmth can provide comfort from any pain and help relieve the inflammation in the nostrils. Repeat this as often as necessary.
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A decongestant medication can help reduce swelling and ease pain associated with irritated nasal passages. Many decongestants are available without a doctor’s prescription. They come in two forms: nasal spray and pill. Common decongestant nasal sprays include oxymetazoline (Afrin) and phenylephrine (Sinex). Common decongestant pills include pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Sudogest). Many of these medicines are kept behind the pharmacy counter, so you’ll need to get them from the pharmacist.
Use all decongestants correctly and safely. You shouldn’t take a decongestant for more than three days without a doctor’s supervision. After three days, a nasal decongestant may actually make your congestion and stuffiness worse.
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You may want to take an antihistamine or allergy medicine if your stuffy nose is the result of an allergic reaction. Both types of medications can reduce the swelling in your nasal passages, helping to unclog your stuffy nose. Combination medicines that contain both an antihistamine and a decongestant can relieve the sinus pressure and swelling caused by allergic reactions.
Follow the instructions for these medications carefully. If you don’t, you may make your condition worse. It should also be noted that antihistamines might make you drowsy. If you aren’t sure how an antihistamine will affect you, don’t take the medicine when you need to be active or productive.
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A congested nose can be uncomfortable, but a few at-home remedies may clear out your nasal passages and bring relief. A few over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can also help, but you’ll want to use them carefully. Make sure to speak with a pharmacist when choosing a decongestant, antihistamine, or allergy medication. The pharmacist can also answer any questions you may have about a particular medication. Call your doctor if your stuffy nose doesn’t improve after taking medicine for more than three days, or if you have a fever as well.