Nasal Congestion

Nasal Congestion: Causes, Picture, Symptoms, and Treatment

Nasal congestion is a common problem that people suffer at any point in their life. The problem can occur due to simple health issues like the flu or cold. It is also known as a stuffy nose. When you suffer from the issue your nose has a stuffy/plugged feeling. You find it difficult to breathe as it feels something has blocked your nose. Stuffy nose occurs when the nasal, blood vessels and surrounding tissues become swollen. The excess fluid inside the nose can lead to congestion.

You may or may not experience nasal discharge (runny nose) as a part of the problem. So, the congested nose can cause you annoyance. It becomes difficult to sleep. It is a problem for infants and young children. A stuffy nose can have a hard time feeding. Therefore, you need to take steps to clear the clogged nose. Read ahead to know the different factor leading to a congested nose. It will help you take the right action to deal with the problem. So, you can get relief from the annoying condition.

What Is Nasal Congestion?

nasal congestion

A stuffy nose is an annoying condition that can make you lose focus. Your nose starts dripping and you have to keep tissues within your arm’s reach. The problem can also make you sound funny when you talk to others. You feel like blowing your nose to breathe easy. But, much to your frustration, nothing comes out. Unlike popular misconception, the congested nose does not occur due to too much mucus in your nasal passage. It is the result of inflamed blood vessels in your sinuses.

Causes Of Nasal Congestion

The congested nose can occur when something causes irritation or inflammation of the nasal tissues. Several health problems, allergies or other complications can trigger the problem. The majority of the people suffer from the congested nose due to some minor illness. In some rare cases, a nasal tumor can lead to a stuffy nose. People suffering from the issue due to cold or flu can find the condition improving within a week. Congestion that lasts for more than a week can signify some serious health issue. Want to know in detail the main causes of nasal congestion? Here are some of the common causes triggering the problem:


Allergic reactions due to dust mites, pet dander, or pollen can lead to nasal tissue inflammation. When you come in contact with the allergens, your immune system releases histamine into your bloodstream. The allergic response can trigger several symptoms, including the stuffy nose. In most cases, allergies can cause cold-like symptoms. So, you can experience congestion, runny nose, and sinus pressure.

Hay Fever

Unlike the name, you may not suffer from fever due to coming in contact with the hay. It is the allergic rhinitis occurring due to a person coming in contact with proteins from plants several times. The protein known as pollen is produced by many weeds, grasses, or trees and spreads through the wind. The dry, light and extremely small protein particles can enter through your nose when you inhale. So, it can trigger inflammation in your sinus tissues and result in the stuffy nose.

Chronic Sinusitis

If you suffer from a sinus infection, then you can also suffer congested nose. The long-lasting sinus infection, also known as chronic sinusitis leads to a stuffy nose. Any infection, swelling of the lining of the sinus or non-cancerous growths can lead to chronic sinusitis. You can suffer from congestion or nasal obstruction due to the problem. You can also experience trouble breathing through your nose.

Nasal Polyps

Nasal Polyps

Some people can suffer from benign tumors in the nasal passage. The growth known as polyps has a soft texture. The painless growth on sinuses or nasal passage can result in the congested nose. The teardrop-shaped or grapes shaped tumors are the result of allergies, certain immune disorders, recurring infections or drug sensitivity.

Chemical Exposures

When people get exposed to the chemical in their workplace for a long period of time, it can result in severe nasal inflammation. The airborne chemicals can affect your afferent nerves leading to a stuffy nose and other complications.

Environmental Irritants

Several irritants are present in the environment. When you come in contact with any of the irritants, it can trigger an adverse response from your immune system. It can result in the expansion of blood vessels in your nose. So, it can fill your nasal lining with fluid and blood. It can cause congestion and breathing difficulty.

Deviated Septum

Deviated Septum

It is the physical deformity triggering nasal congestion. The bone and the cartilage (nasal septum), which divides your nose’s nasal cavity into half, can suffer from an imbalance. The crooked or off-center nasal septum makes breathing difficult. Majority of people have some sort of problem in the size of their breathing passage triggering such problems.


Nasal congestion is a problem pregnant women can face during their pregnancy. It is one of the signs of pregnancy that mostly occurs at the end of the first trimester. Pregnancy can cause hormonal fluctuations in a woman’s body. It can also increase the blood supply to help with the development of the fetus. So, the two issues can lead to a stuffy nose.

Signs Associated With Nasal Congestion

Nasal congestion can signify an underlying health problem. So, you can suffer from the problem due to a sinus infection, flu or common cold. When you suffer from the condition, you can experience other signs like:

  • Runny nose
  • A stuffy feeling in your nose
  • Sinus pain
  • Swollen nasal tissue
  • Mucus buildup

It is easy to alleviate congestion in your nose due to simple issues like cold or flu. You can address the condition by implementing some home remedies. If the methods fail to treat the problem, then you need medical assistance. If you suffer from chronic or long-term congestion, then you need assistance of medical professionals to get relief from the problem.

Home Remedies To Overcome Nasal Congestion

For simple issues causing a stuffy nose, you can opt for some home remedies. The remedies focus on breaking the mucus in your nasal passage and soothe the inflammation in your nasal passage. If you have any serious breathing conditions like asthma, you need to consult your doctor before implementing the steps. Therefore, you can adopt the following techniques to get relief from the annoying problem:

Use Humidifiers

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If you struggle to breathe properly due to the stuffed nose, then you can use humidifiers. It is quick as well as an easy method to reduce the pain due to sinusitis. A humidifier is a machine that converts water into moisture. The moisture added to the air can help you breathe properly. It can soothe inflamed nasal passages. It can also offer relief from swollen blood vessels in your nose as well as the sinuses. A humidifier can empty the fluids accumulated in your nose. So, you can breathe normally. You just need to put a humidifier in your room to reduce the nasal inflammation causing the congested nose.

Take A Warm Shower

People with a stuffy nose can get immediate relief when you take a hot shower. The steam from the hot shower can thin the mucus. So, you can breathe easy. It also eases the inflammation in your nasal passage. You can breathe normally after taking a hot shower. But, the effect can last for only a short duration of time. You can also get the same effect when you breathe steam from hot water in a sink. Just place a towel over your head and breathe the hot water filled in the sink. When the steam builds, you can take deep breaths. Take care not to burn your face due to the hot water or steam.

Get Enough Hydration

When you experience nasal congestion, you need to drink enough water. The fluids you drink throughout the day can keep you hydrated. It will help reduce the thickness of the mucus in the nasal passages. So, it pushes the mucus blocking the nose outside the nose. You can feel the excess pressure in the sinuses reducing. The reduced pressure can lower the risk of inflammation as well as irritation. Try to drink juice, sports drink, water, or warm tea. Drinking warm soup can also reduce the discomfort associated with a congested nose and sore throat.

Opt For Saline Spray

You can ensure more hydration in the form of saline spray. The saltwater solution can increase the moisture inside your nasal passage. The nasal saline spray can reduce the thickness of the mucus. It also reduces the inflammation of the blood vessels. It also aids in emptying the fluids accumulated inside your nose. You can opt from the different over-the-counter saline sprays to get relief. When you choose a saline spray, read the label carefully. It is due to the fact that some product contains decongestant medication. Using decongestant for more than three days can worsen your congestion. So, talk to your doctor before using it. It can also trigger severe side effects when you use it with other medications.

Saline spray is safe to use for people of all ages. So, irrespective the age of the affected person, you can use a saline spray to get relief from nasal congestion. But, when you use the product on babies, you need an aspirator or nasal bulb. Aspirator or nasal bulb can remove the excess mucus that remains in your baby’s nose.

Propping Head Up

When you lie down, you need to prop your head. Propping your head up will allow the mucus to flow out of your nose. It will offer you relief from the blocked nose. It can also help you get proper sleep with a congested nose.

Draining The Sinuses

Draining The Sinuses

Nasal irrigation is an effective home remedy to clear the mucus accumulation and get relief from inflammation in your nasal passage. You can flush out the clogged nostrils using a neti pot. It is an effective method to decongest your nose when you suffer from severe sinusitis. You need to place the neti pot in one nostril and tilt it to let the water enter your nasal passage. The water must come out of your other nostril. You have to switch sides to clear both sides of your nose. While using the neti pot, opt for distilled water instead of tap water. It will help clear your nasal passage without triggering any other complications.

Place A Warm Compress

Using a warm compress can help clear your congested nasal passages from outside. You can place a warm towel over your nose and forehead to unclog the congested nose. Just soak the towel in hot water and squeeze the water out to get a warm towel. The warmth of the towel can offer relief from the pain and discomfort associated with a stuffy nose. It can also relieve the inflammation in your nasal passage. So, repeat the method as often you feel necessary.

Opt For OTC Decongestants

Decongestants can offer you relief from the signs associated with a stuffy nose like pain and swelling. It can reduce the irritation in your nasal passages and offer you relief. You can purchase the decongestants without a doctor’s prescription. The over-the-counter medication comes in two forms, nasal spray, and pills. You need to use the medication as suggested in the directions. It will help you avoid any problems. But, you must never take it more than three days without your doctor’s suggestion. When you use it for more than three days, it can worsen the stuffiness and congestion.

Take Allergy Medication/Antihistamines

If environmental irritants or other allergens trigger the stuffiness in your nose, then you can take allergy medicines or antihistamines. The two types of medications can offer you relief by reducing the swelling in your nasal passages. So, it helps in unclogging your nostrils. You also get a combination of decongestant and antihistamine that can offer relief from sinus pressure. It also reduces the swelling caused due to allergic reactions. Therefore, you can manage the nasal congestion.

When To See A Doctor For Nasal Congestion?

You can suffer from congested nose due to simple cold or flu. So, you may wonder hen to see a doctor. In most cases, you can find relief by just trying the home remedies. But, the presence of other underlying health conditions may not relieve the symptoms with the suggested home remedies. You need to find the exact reason causing a stuffy nose and get appropriate medical treatment. It is necessary when the pain and discomfort associated with nasal congestion affect your everyday activities. So, take an appointment with your doctor when you experience the following:

  • When you suffer from congestion for more than ten days
  • You experience severe fever for three or more days along with stuffy nose
  • When you suffer from other health issues like asthma, weakened the immune system or emphysema
  • You see green colored nasal discharge accompanied by sinus pain as well as fever
  • Clear or blood in a nasal discharge after suffering from recent head trauma

In such cases, you need to seek assistance from your doctor as soon as possible. With immediate medical attention, you can avoid severe complications.

Infants And Children

While adults can deal with problems due to nasal congestion better, infants or young children need to maintain caution. The problem is more threatening in young children as it can interfere with feeding. It can also lead to fatal breathing problems. Therefore, you need to pay attention to the congested nose in your child. Ignoring the problem can affect your child’s hearing and speech development. So, get assistance from your pediatrician immediately when you observe signs of stuffy nose in your child. Your doctor can find the right treatment option to alleviate the problem.

Diagnosing Nasal Congestion

When you experience congestion in your nose for more than a week, then see a doctor. Your doctor can help uncover the underlying health issue triggering the stuffiness in your nose. So, your doctor performs the following diagnostic test to detect the problem:

Physical Assessment

Your doctor will look inside your nostrils to check for tenderness or inflammation. Your face is checked to detect tenderness or pain. Depending on the physical assessment, your doctor can suggest other tests.

Imaging Tests

The imaging tests like CT scan or MRI can offer detailed images of your nasal area and sinuses. So, it can help your doctor detect deep inflammation or any physical obstruction causing congestion. The comprehensive information offered will help your doctor adopt a treatment plant.

Checking The Sinuses

Your doctor can insert a thin and flexible tube inside your nose. The tube has a fiber-optic light at one end, which allows your doctor to see the inside of your sinuses.

Allergy Test

Allergy Test

At times, severe allergic reactions can lead to nasal congestion. Therefore, your doctor can suggest an allergy test to determine the exact allergen behind the immune reaction. The allergy skin test is the safe and quick method to detect the allergen triggering such reactions. So, your doctor can pinpoint the exact allergen causing the nasal flare-ups.

Culture Tests

Your doctor can send the samples from your sinus and nasal discharge to the lab for culture. It can determine the bacteria or fungus causing the nasal inflammation. The test is helpful in cases where the initial treatment fails to offer you relief. It is also ideal in the situation when your nasal inflammation worsens. The non-invasive test requires a sample from inside your nose, which is collected using a swab and sent to the lab for testing.

Based on the diagnosis, your doctor can suggest an ideal treatment for dealing with the congested nose.

Treatment For Nasal Congestion

After finding the exact reason for your congested nose, your doctor can recommend an ideal treatment plan. In most cases, you just need medications to resolve the symptoms associated with the problem. Over-The-Counter or prescription medications can offer you relief. In some cases, you need surgery to overcome the congestion and associated signs.


Your doctor suggests medications based on the severity of the problem. Depending on the exact reason triggering the congestion, you need to take the following medications:


For allergic reactions, your doctor recommends oral antihistamines. You can also use nasal sprays containing the antihistamines. Nasal spray treats the mild cases of the problems. Your doctor can also suggest using nasal steroids to treat allergies.


If a bacterial infection triggers congestion of your nose, then you need prescription antibiotics. It can reduce the inflammation and offer you relief.


If you have a common cold or flu, you need decongestant to treat the problem. Your doctor can suggest prescription strength or OTC decongestant based on the severity of your problem. Decongestant can also offer relief when you have nasal inflammation due to allergies.


When a tumor or nasal polyps causes clogging in your nose, you need surgical intervention. It is necessary to remove the tumor or nasal polyps from the nasal passages or sinuses as it restricts the mucus from draining out.


Nasal congestion does not result in severe health complications. It is the annoying problem triggering discomfort. But, certain health problems causing congestion in your nose need treatment right away. In most of the cases, you can get relief from the problem with proper treatment. So, when you get the medical attention and care, your symptoms will improve right away.

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