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Stuffy nose - how can we help?

Monday, 09 January 2023

A blocked nose is a symptom that occurs when the nasal cavity and sinuses become inflamed - as a result, the mucus accumulates, and the tissues swell, which blocks the flow of air through the nasal cavity. A blocked nose is very common and is usually the result of a Cold, allergy, or inflammation.


BLOCKED NOSE: What is a blocked nose? | Symptoms | Consult with a doctor | Causes of congestion | Tips for unclogging | SINUS CLEANING | Medicines | Prevention | Questions and Answers | Sources/references

A stuffy nose occurs when the nasal and surrounding tissues and blood vessels swell due to excess fluid, causing a "stuffy" feeling. The irritation triggers a chain reaction of inflammation, swelling, and mucus production, making it difficult to breathe air through the nose. A stuffy nose may or may not include a runny nose. A blocked nose is usually only a nuisance for older children and adults.

But nasal congestion can be an unpleasant force, and it can even be severe for children whose sleep is disturbed by a blocked nose or for babies who have difficulty feeding because of it. Nasal congestion usually clears up after a few days, but persistent nasal congestion lasting a week or more may be a sign of infection. In addition, if a blocked nose is not treated, it can cause sinusitis, nasal polyps, and often middle ear infections.

Video content: why can't you breathe through your nose when you have a cold?

In general, a stuffy nose is not dangerous to health and is usually the result of a minor infection or problems with possible allergies. However, suppose other symptoms, such as fever, facial pain, unpleasant pressure in the sinuses, and difficulty breathing accompany the stuffy nose. In that case, this may be a sign of a more serious condition that a doctor should evaluate.

Symptoms of a stuffy nose

Symptoms of a blocked nose include, most often, an unpleasant discharge from the nose, there is also frequent sneezing, and difficulty breathing, which may also result in a headache.

Less common symptoms that you have already experienced in case of nasal congestion are the following:

  • pain in the face,
  • headaches,
  • Inflammation of the throat, which is a widespread consequence of nasal congestion

Picture: stuffy nose and symptoms.


  • lack of smell and taste
  • the feeling of constant fatigue and
  • mood swings.

Medical consultation

Although a stuffy nose is usually caused by a cold, allergies, or sinus infections and can be treated with medication, home remedies, or nasal irrigation, it can sometimes signify a more severe illness. Therefore, it is sometimes necessary to consult a doctor if the symptoms of nasal congestion do not resolve within a few days or if other symptoms, such as fever, facial pain, sinus pressure, or breathing problems, occur.

Leading causes of a stuffy nose

Minor illnesses are the most common causes of nasal congestion. For example, colds, flu, and sinus infections can often cause nasal congestion. However, congestion associated with the disease usually improves within 1-2 weeks.

Video content: 7 most common causes of nasal obstruction

If it lasts longer than 10-14 days, it is often a symptom of another or more severe health problem.

Some explanations for prolonged nasal congestion can be:

  • allergies
  • haystack
  • non-cancerous growths called nasal polyps or benign tumors in the nasal passages
  • sinonasal tumors, although this is rare
  • chemical exposures
  • environmental irritants

Image: unpleasantly stuffy nose.


  • long-term sinus infection is known as chronic sinusitis
  • anatomical causes such as the curved septum, concha bullosa hypertrophy
  • enlarged adenoids
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease, especially in infants

A stuffy nose can also occur during pregnancy, usually at the end of the first trimester. Hormonal fluctuations and the increased blood supply during pregnancy can cause nasal congestion. These hormonal changes can affect the nasal membranes and cause inflammation, dryness, or bleeding.

Tips for unblocking your nose

Use a humidifier

A humidifier can be a quick and easy way to reduce sinus pain and another discomfort by helping to relieve nasal congestion. The humidifier converts water into moisture, slowly filling the air and increasing the room's humidity.


Cleaning the sinuses is a simple procedure that you can do at home. It involves using a saline solution to wash out nasal mucus, and other irritants often found in the nasal cavity and sinuses.

The sinus cleaning procedure should be as follows:

1. Begin by preparing the saline solution. You can buy prepared physiological solutions in a pharmacy (also on the website) or make a saline solution at home - for advice on preparing a pharmacist's solution.

2. To rinse the nasal cavity, use a neti container or a pot or other container suitable for rinsing the nose.

3. Lean over the bathroom sink and tilt your head to one side. Place the nozzle of the container in the upper nostril. 4. Gently pour saline into the upper nostril. The saline will flow through your sinuses and out the other nostril.

Video content: Neti dishes for beginners. How is it used?

5. Once the container is empty, gently blow your nose to remove any remaining mucus. 6. Repeat the process on the other side. 7. Rinse the neti bowl with clean water and let it air dry. 8. Discard any remaining saline solution. 9. For additional relief, you can use a humidifier if necessary

SPECIAL WARNING: NEVER USE TAP WATER ALONE, but combine it with salts to make a rinse solution. It is even better to use purified water that you buy at the pharmacy, to which you add the salts above. It is also possible to use only an isotonic solution available at the pharmacy.

Breathing in moister air can soothe irritated tissues and swollen blood vessels in the nose and sinuses. Some people claim that warm, humidified air can also help clear mucus congestion better - this is especially evident in the case of hot showers. If you have symptoms of nasal congestion, you may benefit from taking warm showers more often or installing humidifiers around your home or office.

Shower - shower

Have you ever had a stuffy nose and found that you can breathe much better after a hot shower? There may be a good reason for this. The steam from the shower can help thin the mucus in the nose and reduce inflammation. As a result, a hot shower usually helps your breathing to return to normal, at least for a while.

You can achieve the same effect by inhaling steam:

  1. First, heat the water in a pot until boiling.
  2. When the temperature is suitable, cover your head with a towel and place your head over a bowl of water.
  3. Let the steam build, and take a deep breath.
  4. Be careful not to burn your face with hot water or steam.

Stay hydrated, and drink plenty of fluids.

You must drink plenty of fluids if you suspect you have cold or flu symptoms. Maintaining optimal hydration levels can help thin the mucus in the nasal passages, push mucus out of the nose, and reduce sinus pressure. Less pressure means less inflammation and irritation. In addition, warm liquids such as tea can ease your discomfort if you also have a sore throat.

Use saline spray

Take hydration a step further with saline (salt water solution). Upwelling a nasal saline spray increases the humidity in your nostrils, and some saline sprays also include a decongestant. Talk to your doctor before using saline sprays with decongestants.

Use a warm compress

A warm compress can help relieve some symptoms of nasal congestion by opening up the nasal passages from the outside. For a warm compress, first, soak a towel in warm water. Then squeeze the water out of the towel, fold it and place it on your nose and forehead. Heat can ease pain and help relieve inflammation in the nostrils. Repeat this as often as necessary.

Usage of medicines

A stuffy nose can be uncomfortable, but other over-the-counter medications can clear your nasal passages and provide significant relief. Consult a pharmacist when choosing a decongestant, antihistamine, or allergy medicine.

Video content: How to open a stuffy nose with Doctor Rx

The pharmacist can also answer any questions about a specific medication. Call your doctor if your nasal congestion does not improve after three days of taking the medication, especially if you also have a fever.

The most common medicines for the treatment of nasal congestion are:

Decongestants - help reduce swelling of the nasal passages and relieve congestion.

Antihistamines - help to "silence" the allergic reaction.

Corticosteroids - help reduce inflammation and consequently relieve congestion.

Vasoconstrictors - help reduce the swelling of the nasal passages and consequently relieve congestion.

Prevention of nasal congestion

The most common ways to prevent your nose from getting blocked:

  1. Avoid substances, chemicals, and allergens such as dust, pollen, smoke, and tobacco particles that cause nasal congestion

Video content: how to unclog a stuffy nose?

  1. avoid viruses, act preventively and wear a face mask, especially in public spaces
  2. use humidifiers at home; you will feel better
  3. take care of nasal hygiene; rinse the nasal cavity with the help of a neti container (use only solutions prepared by all hygiene standards)
  4. Eat a healthy diet enriched with antioxidants

Questions and Answers

How long does nasal congestion usually last?

After 2 or 3 days, the mucus may change to white, yellow, or green. This is completely normal and usually does not mean you need an antibiotic.


Some symptoms, particularly a runny or stuffy nose and cough, may last 10 to 14 days but should improve over time[1].

Why can't I get rid of my stuffy nose?

Nasal congestion that doesn't seem to go away can often signify an allergy. Untreated allergies can cause chronic sinusitis with or without nasal polyps. Fortunately, chronic nasal congestion is treatable. The first step is to visit a personal doctor[2].

How should I sleep with a stuffy nose?

Propping your head with a high pillow often helps keep your sinuses more open. You can try sleeping in a recliner or on an adjustable bed with a higher headboard. It makes sense that your blood flows away from the sinuses[3].

Sources and references

Source: Family Health Guide. Conventional and alternative treatment, Dr. Jajo Lajovic, Publishing House Mladinska knjiga

1. Common Cold - https://www.cdc.gov

2. High blood pressure (hypertension) - https://www.nhs.uk

3. Best Position to Sleep with a Stuffy Nose - https://enticare.com/

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The updating of records on the page is under the control of: Lukanc Tomaž & Lukanc Maja mag. farm. Expert review of information on the page: Lukanc Maja mag. farm. & Lukanc Tanja mag. farm.

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