A stuffy nose is called nasal congestion in medical terminology. The stuffiness interferes with airflow from and outside of the nose. The congestion mainly occurs due to swelling of the tissues lining the nose. The swelling is attributed to inflammation of the blood vessels. And, in some cases, excessive secretion of thick mucus may be the culprit. Sometimes, structural deformities also lead to the congestion. One side stuffiness may occur due to a foreign substance inserted into the nose. The congestion is associated with sinus infection, flu, common colds, vasomotor rhinitis, pregnancy, nasal polyps, over use of nasal drops or sprays, and hay fever. In some cases, people suffer from congested nose without any reasons. This is referred to as non-allergic rhinitis.
Nasal congestion in infants can affect nursing. Although a stuffy nose is an annoyance in adolescents and older children, sometimes it may result in serious problems. For instance, congestion may hinder the sleep and lead to problems related to speech development and hearing. The congestion may cause snoring as the patients having stuffy nose breathe from the mouth instead of the nose while sleeping. During breathing from the mouth, negative pressure behind the soft palate and uvula develops, increasing the vibrations.
Generally, a stuffy nose heals itself within one week. However, you may try the following remedies for better healing:
- Put saline nose drops into both nostrils to remove the mucus.
- Consume sugar-free fluids. Keep the sinuses and nasal passages moist. Vaporizers and humidifiers will retain room air moisture. Irrigate the nose with saline.
- Warm compresses will reduce the congestion. Use a warm, wet clean cloth for the compresses. Inhale steam.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs- antihistamines, decongestants and painkillers- may give some relief. Decongestants may relieve congestion by reducing the swelling, whereas antihistamines bring down the level of mucus. However, seek help of a doctor in choosing a right OTC.
- Keep the head raised, as the stuffiness aggravates when you lie down. Sleeping with raised head will ensure comfortable breathing.
- Do not swim in chlorinated pools.
- Use neti pot to clear away the congestion.
- Do consult the doctor if the congestion is accompanied by persistent coughing, yellow-green / gray mucus, pain in the throat, blurred vision and swelling of the cheeks, eyes, forehead and the nose.
- If you want supplements, consult the doctor.
- If medications do not help, surgery, especially in the case of chronic nasal congestion, may be required.
- Pungent and spicy foods may help in relieving the congestion.