"The nose is for breathing, the mouth is for eating." However, have you ever come across a serious congestion of your nose that made it difficult for you to breathe properly trough your nose? It is obvious you must have been encountered with the nasal congestion at some part of your time. So, nasal congestion or the "stuffy nose" is a condition when there is a cold infection or allergies causing the nasal cavity to get swollen and built up with the mucus, making it difficult to breathe in the patient. Though Nasal congestion can simply be an annoyance for the elder children and the adults, it can be extremely serious in case of the infants who might lead to a troublesome time nursing and breathing. In this current article we will talk about the nasal congestion or the stuffy nose, the various causes leading to nasal congestion and ways to treat or get relief from the closed nose or the congestion of the nose.

Nasal Congestion

Overview on Nasal Congestion:

Let us take a look on what exactly nasal congestion mean.

  • Nasal congestion is also called as the condition of "Stuffy nose" when the nasal and the adjacent tissues along with the blood vessels in the nasal cavity gets swollen up with excessive fluid content, causing a "Stuffy" feeling.
  • Though not always, but nasal congestion might sometimes be accompanied by a discharge from the nose or the "runny nose."
  • It can be fatal in infant leading to a difficulty in nursing and breathing.
  • Common cold, sinus infection or allergies may lead to Nasal congestion.
  • Nasal congestion might lead to sore throat and severe cough in case the mucus built in the nasal cavity runs down the throat (or the postnasal drip).
  • Alternative names for nasal congestion includes, Nasal obstruction, Nasal blockage, Blocked nose, Plugged nose, Stuffy nose etc.
  • There are various ways to treat nasal congestion which might range from various medical solutions to natural decongestion remedies to be practised at home for clearing the congestion and enhancing the comfort in the stuffy nose condition.

Causes of Nasal Congestion:

Practically there are various reasons which can lead to a congestion of the nose. Below is the list mentioning about some of the most known causes for nasal congestion.

  • Common cold and influenza are most common causes for nasal congestion
  • Allergies including the allergies to pollen or grass can cause congestion of the nose
  • Sinus infection also lead to nasal congestion
  • Deviated septum may also cause nasal congestion.
  • Certain reaction to specific medicines also at times causes nasal congestion.
  • Sometimes women may suffer with nasal congestion during their pregnant phase because of the excessive amount of blood flowing through their body during pregnancy
  • Inversion may cause the nasal blood vessels to inflame and cause congestion sometimes.
  • Hay fever, nasal polyps, rhinosinusitis, empty nose syndrome etc are some other conditions and diseases where the patient might suffer from nasal congestion.

Complications in Nasal Congestion:

Nasal congestion can sometimes be simply mild annoying. But at times it can be life threatening. Let us take a look on some of the most serious complications of nasal congestion.

  • Nasal congestion in infants or the newborns in the first few months of their birth can be highly dangerous as it can interfere with their breastfeeding and cause respiratory distress which can be life threatening.
  • Sometimes nasal congestion can interfere with the speech and hearing.
  • Extreme conditions in nasal congestion can also interfere with sleep, cause snoring and may also be linked with the sleeping disorder of sleep apnea.
  • At some conditions, chronic sleep apnea may be caused due to the nasal congestion from enlarged adenoids which may lead to the right sided heart failure.
  • Facial and head pains are some of the other complications from nasal congestion caused by the common cold and allergies.

When to Visit a Doctor for Nasal Congestion?

It is essential to know when it is required to meet the doctor in case you are showing symptoms of nasal congestion. Check out the below list and meet your doctor in case you show any of the following symptoms in nasal congestion

  • If there is a congestion of nose with a swelling of the forehead, eyes, cheeks and if there occurs blurred vision.
  • In case there is a nasal discharge which comes only from one side of the nose, or has a color other than yellow or white, or if it has a bad smell.
  • If you find yellow or white spots on the tonsils or other parts of the throat, if there is a severe throat pain in nasal congestion.
  • If you have a nasal discharge along with fever.
  • In case there is cough lasting more than 10 days or producing yellow-green mucus.
  • In case the nasal discharge occurs after an injury to the head
  • If there is blood in your discharge from nose
  • In case the symptoms exist for more than three weeks.

Important to Note in Case of Infants Suffering from Nasal Congestion:

In case your child is newborn or younger than 2 months of age and gets nasal congestion and fever along with it, make sure you immediately reach your child's doctor. It is also important to visit the doctor in case the nasal congestion is interfering with proper breastfeeding or clear breathing.

What to Expect at Your Doctor's Chamber Visit:

You must be made aware of the tests or diagnosis which your doctor might perform on you. Below list will give you some idea.

  • You might be physically examined by your doctor and the physical exam on the initial phase will focus on the ears, nose, throat and the airways
  • Allergy skin test and blood test might be performed
  • Sputum culture and throat culture can also be done
  • Chest X-rays and X-rays of the sinuses might also be done to confirm about your condition in nasal congestion.

How to Treat Nasal Congestion?

Medicines Which are Beneficial in Treating Nasal Congestion: Medical Solution

Here below we will talk about the medicines or drugs which help in treating the congestion of the nose and various complications in nasal congestion.

  1. Drugs like Actaminophen, Ibuprofen, Aspirin etc are useful for eradicating the discomfort caused due to the common cold and influenza causing nasal congestion
  2. However in treating nasal congestion the Alpha-adrenergic agonists are always the first choice. Oxymtazoline, Phenylephrine etc provides relief from the nasal congestion caused by constriction of the blood vessels in the nasal cavity.
  3. Antihistamines and the decongestants help in relieving certain symptoms in nasal congestion.
  4. Decongestants are available as the Nasal sprays like the Naphazoline, Oxymetazoline. They also come as inhalers and oral pills which are used to treat the symptoms in nasal congestion.
  5. A nasal aspirator is used to remove the mucus from the plugged nose in nasal congestion if an infant is not able to breathe or nurse properly.

Home Remedies for Nasal Congestion:

Nasal congestion can be properly treated at home by following some steps of home remedies. Here below we will discuss about some of the most effective home remedies for nasal congestion.

  1. Take a Warm Water Shower with Essential Oils: Try out a warm water or steam shower if you are suffering from blocked nose in nasal congestion. The steam from the water helps the mucus to thin down and relieves you from troubled breathing. By adding essential oils (like rosemary oils, tea tree oils etc) to the warm water, you can enhance the effectiveness while taking your shower.
  2. Blow your Nose: This is in fact the best way to clear nasal congestion. You need to force and make the mucus come out of the nose. Carry some tissues or handkerchief and blow your nose to ease the congestion.
  3. Use a Humidifier: You can soothe the irritated tissues and the swollen blood vessels in your nose and sinuses by breathing in the moist air. A Humidifier machine can actually help in increasing the humidity of your room easily. The machine helps in converting water to moisture very slowly and fills the air. They also help in thinning of the mucus in your sinuses, which helps in removing the fluids in the nose and return you your normal breathing in nasal congestion.
  4. Drain your Sinuses with Neti Pot: A Neti pot designed to push out water through the nasal passage helps in draining your sinuses or flushing your clogged nasal passages in nasal congestion. To use the neti pot you need to tilt your head in the sink and then put the spout of the neti pot in one of your nostrils till all water enters the nasal passage. Once the water flows in the nasal passage it comes out through other nostril and exit in the sink. Do this for 2 to 3 minutes and then repeat the same with other nostril.
  5. Stay Hydrated: Fluids help in reducing the inflammation when you are sick. It is good to keep self hydrated from within by taking more of fluid contents including water, tea, juices etc which helps in turning the mucus thin and relieving the symptoms in nasal congestion or stuffy nose. In case you also have sore throat along with congestion of nose, take warm tea that would comfort you in a better way.
  6. Use a Warm Compress: A warm compress on face can help you ease from the symptoms of nasal congestion. All you need is soak a towel with warm water, fold it and lightly press it all over the face, especially the nose and the forehead. The heat from the towel can help you relieve any inflammation in nasal congestion and provide you relaxation.
  7. Eat Something Spicy: Eating spicy foods like foods prepared with hot pepper, fenugreek, garlic, onion, wasabi etc can help in thinning the mucus and getting you relief in severe nasal congestion.
  8. Stay Vertical: You can get some benefits by propping you up at night with pillows. Though it won't clear congestion of your nose but it will at least be able to help you breathe and make you comparatively comfortable in nasal congestion.
  9. Massage your Sinuses: Massaging your sinuses would give you some real benefits in easing the congestion of the nose. Check below the steps for massaging:
    • By using both index fingers massage over the eye cavity just above the nose but below the eye brows. Massage it outwards for at least 20 to 30 seconds.
    • Now, using the index fingers massage outwards all around the eyes for at least 20 to 30 seconds
    • Finally take the help of your thumb to massage gently over the cheek bone for 30 seconds.
  10. Dab on Some Mentholated Salve: You can have temporary relief from the nasal congestion, at least for an hour or two by using a vapour rub containing menthol. You need to apply some mentholated salve over the nose and beneath the nose on the upper lip and try getting some relief from the congestion at least for some time to properly breathe in.
  11. Make your Saline Solution for Nasal Congestion at Home: By adding one teaspoon of salt to a cup of sterile water and stirring it well to dissolve for making a nasal saline solution, you can try clearing the congestion. With an eye dropper simply deposit few drops of the home made saline solution into one of the nostrils with your tilted head and try to blow the solution out from the other nostril. The same thing is to be repeated with the other nostril too.
  12. Steam Treatment for Loosening the Mucus: This is an age old traditional therapy done for reliving symptoms of cold, flu, nasal congestion etc. You can try this by getting 3-4 cups of boiling water in a bowl and placing your head near the bowl in a mindful manner so that the steam coming out works in a easing the nasal congestion without burning your face or hands. To have the best benefits out from the steam treatment, you need to cover your head with a towel and breathe in deeply. You can clear the mucus and get relaxed out of the congestion by allowing the warm air passing in to the nasal passage.
  13. Exercise: Exercising during a nasal congestion phase might not be something you would love to do. But simply moving around can benefit you to some extent. Doing 20 push ups with nasal breathing will help you in clearing the nasal congestion. The brain knows it is in need of more air and thus it will reduce the swelling and thin the mucus.
  14. Keep out of Stress and Get Calm: We know stress and strain lowers the functions of the immune system. This way it gets longer to clear the mucus and get the relief in nasal congestion. In case you are stressed, keep out of tension and move out for some relaxation or try something refreshing that could ease you calm down.

Conclusion:

So now that you are aware of some of the most effective ways for treating nasal congestion or clearing the stuffy nose, why worry about the choked breathing in nasal congestion? Try out any of the above mentioned steps if you have a mild congestion of nose which can be treated at home. However make sure to visit the doctor on time in case you feel your symptoms are worsening or in case you are growing with a chronic nasal congestion.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: October 29, 2015

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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