Nasal Congestion - PIH Health

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Published on January 18, 2016

Nasal Congestion

Girl with nasal congestion

Girl with nasal congestionIt’s the time of year when sniffles and stuffy noses get the best of us. Colds (and allergies) inflame and irritate the lining in the nasal passages causing the body to produce excess mucus in order to flush out whatever is causing the irritation.

“Contrary to what you may think, when you’re all stuffed up you need to keep the nasal passages moist not dry,” says Pooja Akotia DO.  “Dry air and dry nasal passages actually cause more irritation, which in turn causes more mucus production.”


Home: There are a number of things you can do at home to help keep your nasal passages moist and alleviate nasal congestion:

  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer
  • Carefully breathe in steam from a pot or bowl of hot water
  • Place warm compresses on your face
  • Drink lots of fluids
  • Use a saline spray of unmedicated salt water                       

Similarly, flushing out your nasal passages with salt water washes out mucus and other debris and helps keep your nasal passages moist. Fill a syringe or other type of irrigator with distilled, sterile or lukewarm water that has been previously boiled.                                               

OTC Medicines: Over-the-counter drugs are effective options for treating congestion:

  • Decongestants help reduce swelling in your nasal passages thereby easing stuffiness and sinus pressure.                   
  • Antihistamines block your body’s release of histamines, which happens in response to an allergen. If allergies are causing your nasal congestion, then controlling the histamine release will help reduce your symptoms.
  • Pain relievers do not relieve nasal congestion but they can help relieve the pain caused by sinus pressure.                

When taking any over-the-counter medication, be sure to follow the instructions closely. Do not take more than the recommended dose, do not take for an extended period of time and check with your doctor if your symptoms do not improve.                

See Your Doctor

If you have nasal congestion and sinus pressure for more than seven days, or the symptoms are severe, see your doctor. You could be dealing with a more serious condition that requires prescription medications. 

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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