Stuffy nose is a condition that is characterized by the obstruction to airflow in and out of the nose. Stuffy nose is a very common thing, which most of us have had, at some point in life.
Stuffy nose condition is known by many names like – nasal congestion, nasal blockage, nasal obstruction, blocked nose, or plugged nose. This article is focused on how to get rid of a stuffy nose faster with or without medicines.
Apart from the irritation and annoyance caused by a blocked nose in adults, it can sometimes also be fatal for newborns.
Newborns prefer to breathe though nose and hence are often known as “obligate nasal breathers”, but when their nose gets blocked they face severe difficulties in breathing and it can also be life threatening.
The very basic cause of a clogged nose is that the membranes lining the nose area swell because of inflamed blood vessels. This inflammation in blood vessels can be caused due to a number of reasons like: common cold, flu, sinusitis, allergies etc.
Now, before moving ahead let’s have a look at the causes of a blocked nose.
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Causes of a Stuffy Nose:
Many people think that the sole cause of a blocked nose is thick mucus, but this is not the case. In fact in most cases it is seen that the reason of a blocked nose is that, the membranes lining the nasal passage swell and this swelling can be caused by anything that irritates or inflames the nasal tissues.
The irritation or inflammation of nasal tissue causes the body’s immune system to send more blood to the area. This extra blood makes the blood vessels swell and they block the nasal airway, thereby making it difficult to breathe.
Common Causes of a Stuffy Nose Include:
- Common Cold: The common cold usually causes runny nose, nasal congestion and sneezing.
- Flu: Flu is an infection in which nose, throat and lungs are involved. It is caused by influenza virus.
- Sinusitis: Sinusitis is the inflammation of sinuses which causes nasal stuffiness. Sinusitis is caused due to an infection from bacteria, virus or fungi.
- Allergies: Allergies can be defined as the hypersensitive disorder of human immune system. Allergies can cause irritation in nasal tissues there by giving rise to nasal blockage.
- Deviated Septum: Nasal septum is the thin wall that divides the nasal chamber into two parts. Sometimes the nasal septum can be deviated to one side thus making one nasal passage smaller than the other. In severe cases, deviated septum can completely block one side of the nasal passage.
- Hay fever: Hay Fever is a condition similar to common cold but unlike common cold it is caused by allergens like pollen, dust etc.
- Nasal Polyps: Nasal Polyps are the soft, painless, noncancerous growths on the lining of nasal passage. Nasal Polyps are caused by chronic asthma or allergic reactions. Nasal Polyps obstruct the air passage in the nose hence causing nasal blockage.
- Other Potential Causes: Other reasons that can give rise to a blocked nose are: Bright lights, Churg-Strauss syndrome, Cluster headache, Cold temperature, Overuse of Decongestant nasal spray, Drug addiction, Dry air, Enlarged adenoids, Foreign body in the nose, High blood pressure medications, Hormonal changes, Nonallergic rhinitis, Occupational asthma, Pregnancy, Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Spicy foods, Stress, Thyroid problems, Tobacco smoke, Wegener’s granulomatosis, etc.
Symptoms of a Stuffy Nose:
Before learning how to get rid of a stuffy nose, let’s understand how to identify one. In this section, I will highlight few symptoms that can help you to identify a blocked nose:
- Nasal drainage is a symptom of a blocked nose. During nasal congestion, catarrh (thick mucus) can either drain externally through the nose or internally down the back of throat. Drainage of mucus down the back of throat is termed as postnasal drip.
- Finding difficulty to breathe quietly.
- You are unable to do any heavy jobs like exercising or lifting heavy weights without struggling for breath.
- Constantly feeling like something is stuck in the throat.
- Due to lack of oxygen in your body you can also feel headache.
- If the congestion is severe then you may also produce a wheezing sound while breathing.
- You are forced to breathe though mouth.
- You try blowing nose to get relief, but it has no effect.
- Crackling noises in the ears.
- Some people also experience facial pain, particularly if the cause of congestion is sinusitis. This pain is caused by the build-up pressure of mucus in the sinuses. The pain in this case can be localised around eyes, forehead and cheeks. Touching these areas can be fairly sensitive in some cases the pain can also be felt in jaws and teeth as well.
- The senses of smell and taste may also get affected.
How to Measure Nasal Congestion:
Nasal blockage is a very difficult thing to measure, doctors cannot judge the intensity of a nasal congestion based on the complaints of a patient. And hence researchers have come up with a method to measure nasal congestion.
This method basically depends on the fact that in nasal blockage the nasal passage swells and obstructs the airflow in and out of the nose. Doctors assess nasal obstruction by measuring the nasal airway in patients.
Though this is not a perfect method and sometimes the doctor’s assessment of an obstructed nose might differ with the intensity that a patient complains.
In this section, I will explain the methods that can be used to get rid of a nasal congestion. And for the sake of simplicity, I have broadly divided these methods into four major categories. These categories are:
- Nasal Decongestants
- Antihistamine Drugs
- Homemade Decongestants
- Miscellaneous Methods
Now, let me explain each of these categories in detail:
Nasal decongestants are a type of medications that can help in providing a short term relief from a stuffy nose. These medications do not cure the actual reason behind the congestion but instead they just help in proving a quick relief. In most counties nasal decongestants can be brought without a doctor’s prescription.
Nasal decongestants come in the form of pills, liquids or nasal sprays. Generally nasal decongestants include chemicals like pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine.
How a Nasal Decongestant Works:
As we know that, the cause of a stuffy nose is that, the membranes lining the nasal area swell thereby obstructing the nasal airflow. Now, when you use these nasal sprays they come in direct contact with the affected area and they reduce the swelling for the time being thereby making it easier for you to breathe.
Note: Nasal sprays are not usually recommended for kids under 12 years of age, for woman who are breastfeeding and for people with high blood pressure. Prolonged use of these sprays can actually worsen the condition, and hence they should not be used more than 7 days at once.
Antihistamines are certain drugs that block chemicals called histamines. Histamines are the chemicals produced by human body in the event of any allergic reaction. So, antihistamine drugs can only be used when the cause of nasal congestion is allergic.
Antihistamines just like nasal decongestants are used for quick relief against a stuffy nose. Antihistamines come in the form of pills or nasal sprays.
How Antihistamine drugs work:
In response to certain allergens, body produces histamines and these histamines are responsible for causing the swelling in nasal passage. Antihistamines block these histamines and thus reduce the swelling of the nasal passage.
Antihistamines can relieve the allergic symptoms once you have them, but they show better results if you take them before you feel allergic symptoms. When taken on a regular basis, antihistamines can build up in your blood to defend you against allergens and stop the release of histamines.
Nowadays, a number of medications are made which are formed by combining Decongestants with Antihistamines and hence these medications are much better than the two in isolation.
Homemade decongestants are very similar to regular decongestants; their job is to break the nasal congestion. Generally homemade decongestants are healthier when compared to their commercial counterparts because they are made up of natural components and do not contain any harmful chemicals.
Homemade decongestants are made up of certain materials that possess natural decongestant properties.
Note: Different people are allergic to different materials. So, I suggest you all not to follow any homemade decongestants medications blindly. Before using any such medication, make sure that you are not allergic to any substance used in its preparation.
Below is a list of most common homemade decongestants:
Using warm water and salt as decongestant:
The basic principal behind this method is that when salt water reaches the nose it gets mixed with the mucus and draws water from the swollen membranes thereby reducing the swelling.
To make this decongestant, just mix ½ teaspoon of salt to 250 ml of warm water (water should not be hot). Next, stir the solution well so that the salt gets mixed completely. Now, take a medicinal dropper and fill it with the solution, tilt your head slightly and put the salt water into your nose (one nostril), let the solution flow through your nasal cavity. Wait for half a minute and lean your head forward drain out the water and repeat this process for the other nostril.
Note: If you feel comfortable you could also use a Neti Pot instead of a dropper to do this.
Using Steam with Eucalyptus oil:
Steam helps to loosen the mucus and relieve the nasal congestion. Eucalyptus oil also has natural decongestant properties. When these two are used together as a decongestant they work wonders.
To make this decongestant take a bowl of steaming hot water, add few drops of Eucalyptus oil in it. Cover your head and the bowl with a towel and just inhale the hot steam. Breathe slowly through nostrils for 5 minutes, blow your nose and then repeat the process.
Note: If it gets too hot for you to tolerate then feel free to take a break.
Using Onions as natural Decongestants:
Onions have decongestant properties and apart from that they also possess anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. You could simply try inhaling while cutting a raw onion in front of you. This usually begins loosening up the mucus in your sinus cavities. Eating raw onions as salads or in soups also has a positive effect on congestion.
But in case you need something much stronger then, you can try this: Take some onion juice; you can easily get onion juice by slicing onions. Take 2 – 3 tablespoon juice and heat it in a pan till it gets warm add sugar if required and swallow 2 tablespoons of the mixture. This mixture will show quick action and you will be happy with the results.
Note: This method is not recommended for young babies and newborns.
Using Spicy foods for congestion relief:
Spicy foods are also considered as good natural decongestants. Spicy salsa, chilli, and other Mexican or Indian foods work well to lessen congestion. Actually spicy foods contain a chemical called ‘capsaicin’.
This chemical causes inflammation in the nerves and elevates the production of thin mucus in nose, thereby loosing the thick mucus. This may not be aesthetically very pleasing but then, it can help you to get some good results.
Using Citrus fruits as Decongestants:
Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and limes are very effective in loosening the mucus. Patients can choose to eat them, drink their juice or use them as an aromatic. Particularly the best among this category are the Mandarin oranges.
Mandarin oranges contain a chemical called ‘synephrine’, a compound related to family of ephedrine that possesses decongestant properties. Synephrine is a naturally existing decongestant and mandarin oranges contain this compound 6-7 times more than any other citrus fruit.
Using Other Natural Decongestants:
Apart from the above, there are few other natural decongestants like Goldenseal and Ginger. The bitter, yellow root of Goldenseal has antibiotic properties and it is also very useful in reducing the swelling in mucous membranes.
Ginger root is also very effective for curing a clogged nose. It is a good source of natural anti-inflammatory chemicals that can help in reducing the congestion related swelling in the nasal passageway.
In this section, I will highlight some other random methods that can help you get rid of a stuffy nose quickly. So here we go:
You can get a quick relief from clogged nose by pressing the right pressure points on your face. This method is generally considered very fast and effective as it doesn’t needs any specialist help.
To try this remedy, take your both index fingers and place them on the either side of your eye cavity (the part of nose at the corner of eyes). Now start massaging this area with your index fingers in a circular motion. Do this for 20 -30 seconds.
Next, with your index finger and thumb massage your ear lobes (in a circular motion) for 20-30 seconds.
After this, take your thumbs and place them on your cheek bone and massage them (in a circular motion) for 20 – 30 seconds.
Repeat this 10 times. This method can provide relief from a blocked nose almost instantly.
Using humidifiers or vaporizers in your room can increase the moisture content in air and can also be very helpful for breaking the thick mucus. Humidifiers can prove very helpful especially in cold weather.
Using Ice Cube technique:
Many people say that they got success in relieving their congestion by drinking very cold drinks while holding an ice cube against the roof of their mouth. The scientific reason behind this is that; by keeping an ice cube near the nasal cavity causes the swollen membranes to contract and hence provides a quick relief in such situations.
Note: Please note that I haven’t myself used this technique, so I won’t suggest you to use this either. In cases where nasal congestion is due to common cold, this technique may actually worsen the situation.
Drinking plenty of fluids:
Drinking plenty of fluids helps body in clearing out the congestion on its own. Taking herbal tea, fruit juices and soups along with proper rest can help you to feel better.
Using Face Compress:
Take a warm and moist cloth and using it apply little pressure (using your fingers) on the areas near your cheek, eyes and mouth. Do this for 10-15 minutes. This will dilate your blood vessels in the adjoining areas and can help in relieving the congestion.
Things not to do when you have a Nasal Congestion:
- Do not blow your nose as researches have proved that blowing nose actually worsens the situation by reversing the flow of mucus into the sinuses and slowing the drainage.
- Do not smoke, as it will increase the inflammation in the nasal passage and make the problem more severe.
- Do not lie down on your side while sleeping; this may actually worsen the stuffiness. Try to keep your head upright, or at least keep the head elevated.
- In case of babies, do not use cotton swaps to clean the mucus inside nostrils as it may hurt baby’s nose.
- Avoid dairy products like milk, cheese, ice cream etc. , as these products increase the secretion of mucus and makes the situation worse.
When to see a Doctor?
Nasal blockage is a very common problem and in most cases you may not need to visit a doctor, but if you feel any of the below mentioned symptoms then you must see a doctor:
- If you have a blocked nose along with a swelling in your forehead, eyes or cheeks.
- If you have found yellowish or white spots on your throat.
- If due to nasal congestion your vision is starting to blur.
- If coughing produces a greenish or greyish mucus.
- If the clogged nose lasts longer than 15 days.
So, this was all from me on getting rid of a stuffy nose, hope this information would have helped you. Please feel free to write your experiences in the comment section below.
Stay fit and have a nice day!