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Definition

What is nasal congestion?

Nasal congestion or “stuffy nose” occurs when nasal and adjacent tissues and blood vessels become swollen with excess fluid, causing a “stuffy” feeling. Nasal congestion may or may not be accompanied by a nasal discharge or “runny nose.”

Nasal congestion usually is just an annoyance for older children and adults. But nasal congestion can be serious for children whose sleep is disturbed by their nasal congestion, or for infants, who might have a hard time feeding as a result.

How common is nasal congestion?

Nasal congestion is extremely common. It can affect patients at any age. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of nasal congestion?

If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Your symptoms last more than 10 days.
  • You have a high fever.
  • Your nasal discharge is yellow or green and is accompanied by sinus pain or fever. This may be a sign of a bacterial infection.
  • You have blood in your nasal discharge or a persistent clear discharge after a head injury.

Call your child’s doctor if:

  • Your child is younger than 2 months and has a fever.
  • Your baby’s runny nose or congestion causes trouble nursing or makes breathing difficult.

Causes

What causes nasal congestion?

Nasal congestion can be caused by anything that irritates or inflames the nasal tissues. Infections — such as colds, flu or sinusitis — allergies and various irritants, such as tobacco smoke, may all cause a runny nose.

Some people have a chronically runny nose for no apparent reason — a condition called nonallergic rhinitis or vasomotor rhinitis (VMR).

Less commonly, nasal congestion can be caused by polyps or a tumor.

Potential causes of nasal congestion include:

  • Acute sinusitis
  • Allergies
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Churg-strauss syndrome
  • Common cold
  • Decongestant nasal spray overuse
  • Deviated septum
  • Drug addiction
  • Dry air
  • Enlarged adenoids
  • Foreign body in the nose
  • Hormonal changes
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Medications, such as high blood pressure drugs
  • Nasal polyps
  • Nonallergic rhinitis
  • Occupational asthma
  • Pregnancy
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • Stress
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s granulomatosis)

Risk factors

What increases my risk for nasal congestion?

Please consult with your doctor for more information.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is nasal congestion diagnosed?

Based on your symptoms, your doctor determines the cause of nasal congestion, he or she recommends a treatment plan.

If you have tumors or nasal polyps in your nasal passages or sinuses that are keeping mucus from draining out, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the tumors.

How is nasal congestion treated?

Treatment plans often include over-the-counter or prescription medication to resolve or alleviate symptoms.

Medications used to treat nasal congestion include:

  • Oral antihistamines to treat allergies, such as loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec)
  • Nasal sprays that contain antihistamine, such as azelastine (Astelin, Astepro)
  • Nasal steroids, such as mometasone (Asmanex Twisthaler) or fluticasone (Flovent Diskus, Flovent HFA)
  • Antibiotics
  • Over-the-counter or prescription strength decongestants, such as Sudafed

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage nasal congestion?

Until you see your doctor, try these simple steps to relieve symptoms:

  • Sniffing and swallowing or gently blowing your nose.
  • Avoid known allergic triggers.

If the runny nose is a persistent, watery discharge, particularly if accompanied by sneezing and itchy or watery eyes, your symptoms may be allergy-related, and an over-the-counter antihistamine may help. Be sure to follow the label instructions exactly.

For babies and small children, use a soft, rubber-bulb syringe to gently remove any secretions.

Try these measures to relieve postnasal drip — when excess mucus accumulates in the back of your throat:

  • Avoid common irritants such as cigarette smoke and sudden humidity changes.
  • Drink plenty of water because fluid helps thin nasal secretions.
  • Try nasal saline sprays or rinses.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: October 21, 2017 | Last Modified: October 21, 2017