Nasal blockage or congestion is more commonly referred to as a stuffy nose. Although many people think nasal blockage is caused by excessive build-up of mucus in the nasal passages, this problem is actually the result of inflamed blood vessels. Nasal congestion is often a symptom of the common cold, the flu, a sinus infection, allergies, or any other health issue that can trigger the irritation and consequent inflammation of blood vessels in the sinuses.
Nasal blockage is marked by:
- A runny or stuffy nose
- Mucus build-up
- Inflamed nasal tissue
- Sinus pain
Causes of nasal blockage
Nasal congestion is when a patient’s nasal passages become stuffed-up and inflamed. Minor health conditions like the flu, cold, and an infection of the sinus are the most common causes of a stuffy nose, but illness-related blockage will almost certainly abate within a week. Any nasal congestion that lasts for more than a week might be indicative of an underlying health problem. There are many possible explanations for long-term nasal blockage, including:
- Exposure to environmental irritants
- Exposure to chemicals
- Development of benign tumors or noncancerous growths known as nasal polyps on the lining of nasal passages
- Hay fever
- A deviated septum
- A long-lasting sinus infection called chronic sinusitis
Increase in blood supply and hormonal fluctuations, both commonly associated with pregnancy, can also cause long-term nasal congestion. These changes can have a drying and irritating effect on the nasal membranes, causing inflammation and bleeding. As such, expectant mothers are likely to experience nasal blockage, especially towards the end of the first trimester.
Regardless of the cause, there are a number of ways to relieve nasal congestion.
Home remedies for a stuffy nose
Natural home remedies can help alleviate nasal blockage, especially if it is not chronic. Here are a few things that can help you feel and breathe better.
Use a humidifier: Humidifiers can help relieve a stuffy nose. By adding moisture to your indoor air, these devices offer a quick and easy solution. Besides thinning and breaking up the mucus in your sinuses, moist air can help soothe inflamed nasal tissues and blood vessels, reducing sinus pain and restoring your breathing to normal.
Stay hydrated: Staying hydrated can help thin the mucus congesting your nasal passages, allowing you to push these fluids out. This will, in turn, decrease the amount of pressure exerted on your sinuses, meaning less irritation and inflammation.
Use a nasal saline spray: Saline is a saltwater solution that can help increase the amount of moisture in your nostrils, which will, in turn, break up the mucus congesting your nasal passages and soothe inflamed blood vessels. Saline sprays are also safe for all ages. When it comes to babies, however, the use of a nasal bulb or aspirator is necessary to clean any remaining mucus from their noses. Also, some saline sprays contain decongestant medication and can worsen the congestion if used for more than a few days. So, consult your doctor before you use this type of saline spray.
Drain your sinuses: Although it might not be an alluring task, you can use a neti pot to flush clogged nostrils. This container is ideally designed for the purpose of flushing fluids out of nasal passages. The FDA advocates the use of sterile or distilled water, and not tap water.
Take a hot shower: The steam from a hot shower can help relieve a stuffy nose and restore your breathing to normal by thinning the mucus clogging your nose and reducing inflammation. This is, however, a short-term solution.
Use a warm compress: Warm compresses can help unclog your nose by opening your nasal passages from the outside. Soak a towel in slightly hot water, squeeze out the water, fold the towel, and then place it over your face, specifically over the nose and forehead. Repeat as often as necessary. The warmth can help relieve inflammation and provide comfort from any pain.
When should you see a doctor?
Home remedies are not always enough to relieve nasal congestion, especially if it is not associated with a minor health issue. Medical treatment might be necessary for chronic or long-term congestion. You should also seek medical attention if you are in pain or can no longer perform your day-to-day activities as you should. See your doctor right away if any of the following applies to your case:
- Nasal blockage lasting more than 10 days
- Blockage along with high fever for more than three days
- Bloody nasal discharge
- Green nasal discharge accompanied by sinus pain and fever
- Constant clear discharge
- A weakened immune system, asthma, or emphysema
Also, it’s imperative that you seek immediate medical attention if you’ve suffered any recent head injury.
Nasal congestion in infants and older children
Nasal blockage can be more of a health risk to infants than it is to older children and adults. Apart from interfering with infant feedings, a stuffed-up nose can lead to breathing problems that might be fatal. Nasal congestion may also inhibit the development of normal speech and hearing in children. For these reasons, it’s imperative that you contact your pediatrician the soonest possible if your child has a stuffy nose. In this way, your doctor can work together with you to determine the most appropriate treatment option for your baby.
If you are suffering from chronic nasal blockage, your doctor will recommend a treatment plan once he/she has established the cause. Treatment plans will in most cases include prescription medications to help alleviate or resolve the symptoms.
The following are some of the medications used to treat long-lasting nasal congestion.
- Nasal sprays that contain antihistamines
- Oral antihistamines for treating allergies
- Nasal steroids
- Prescription or over-the-counter strength decongestants
Surgery might be the recommended form of treatment for patients who have nasal polyps or benign tumors in their nasal passages, or sinuses that keep mucus from draining out.
Nasal blockage is not likely to cause major health issues. With proper treatment, the symptoms don’t usually take long to improve.
Becker Ear Nose and Throat Center strives to provide specialized and personalize care to all patients. You deserve the best treatment and care that is tailored to your individual needs. With their internationally recognized doctors, you are assured of quality health care.
Flu season is well underway in most of the United States. Ensure you are diagnosing your illness correctly when comparing nasal blockage to the common cold or flu. Consider some of the remedies mentioned above to ensure you are staying ahead of the season and taking care of yourself!