Infection, tobacco smoke, or perfume can trigger nasal passages that are swollen with excess fluid and mucus. Nasal congestion, nasal congestion, or runny nose is usually caused by an increase in blood volume to the vessels that line the passages inside the nose. Nasal congestion can have causes that are not due to an underlying disease. Examples include an anatomical variation, an object stuck in the nose, or dried mucus.

What is Congestion, Runny, or Stuffed Nose?

A stuffy nose is a term often used to refer to a blockage to the flow of air in and out of the nose, while a runny nose refers to a discharge from the nasal passages. It is often a watery, clear liquid, but can be thicker and viscous. A stuffy and runny nose is associated with inflammation and congestion of the inner lining of the nasal passages and sinuses. Rhinitis is a term that refers to inflammation of the nasal tract, and rhinorrhea is the medical term for a runny nose. A stuffy or runny nose is mostly caused by viral infections, but allergies, the flu, other viral infections like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and sinus infections can also cause a stuffy or runny nose. Post-nasal drip may be an associated symptom. This happens when there is excessive production of mucus by the cells of the lining of the nose which collects in the back of the nose or throat.

Less commonly, anatomical obstructions can lead to nasal congestion. Other causes of a stuffy or runny nose include environmental factors, such as eating spicy foods or exposure to smoke, hormonal changes, and certain medications. Rarely, nasal passages or chronic medical conditions can be the cause of a stuffy or runny nose.


In addition to cold temperatures, some other causes of chills can include:

  • Acute sinusitis
  • The allergies
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Churg-Strauss syndrome
  • Cold
  • COVID-19
  • Decongestant nasal spray overuse
  • Deviated septum
  • Dry air
  • Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
  • Hormonal changes
  • Influenza
  • Medicines, like those used to treat high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, depression, seizures, and other conditions
  • Object housed
  • Nasal polyps
  • Non-allergic rhinitis
  • Occupational asthma
  • Pregnancy
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • Leaking cerebrospinal fluid
  • Tobacco smoke


Once your physician has determined the cause of chronic nasal congestion, they may recommend a treatment plan. Treatment plans often include over-the-counter or prescription medications to relieve or alleviate symptoms.

Medicines used to treat nasal congestion include:

  • oral antihistamines to treat allergies, such as loratadine and cetirizine
  • nasal sprays containing antihistamines, such as azelastine
  • nasal steroids, such as mometasone or fluticasone
  • antibiotics
  • over-the-counter or prescription decongestants
  • If you have nasal tumors or polyps in your nasal passages or sinuses that prevent mucus from draining, your physician may recommend surgery to remove them

When to visit a Doctor?

Call your physician for any of the following:

  • Stuffy nose with swelling of the forehead, eyes, side of the nose or cheek, or which occurs with blurred vision
  • More pain in the throat, or white or yellow patches on the tonsils or other parts of the throat
  • Runny nose that smells bad, comes from only one side or is a color other than white or yellow
  • Cough that lasts more than 10 days or produces yellow-green or gray mucus
  • Runny nose following head trauma
  • Symptoms that last more than 3 weeks
  • Runny nose with fever

Home Remedies:

To get rid of congestion at home, a person can try:

  • stay hydrated
  • take a hot shower
  • inhale steam from a bowl of hot water, with a towel over your head to trap the steam
  • keeping your head elevated while sleeping
  • taking antihistamines or over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants
  • taking over-the-counter pain relievers, if there is pressure or pain in the sinuses
  • apply a cold compress to the painful areas of the face
  • taking prophylactic probiotics or consuming foods high in probiotics, such as yogurt or kimchi
  • taking supplements that boost immunity, like zinc sulfate, echinacea, vitamin C, or geranium extract
  • It's important to note that experts warn against overusing nasal sprays and decongestants, as this can cause congestion

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can dehydration cause a stuffy nose?

When you are dehydrated, the mucus inside your sinuses becomes thick, making it harder for the eyelashes to push the mucus out. If the mucus stays inside our sinuses longer than it should, we risk developing a sinus infection, also known as sinusitis.

2. How long does nasal congestion last?

Although it may seem longer, nasal congestion usually lasts between five and ten days, depending on whether it is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. While decongestants can help manage your nasal congestion symptoms, it's best to just let the nasal congestion take its course.

3. What is the best position to sleep in with a stuffy nose?

Sleeping on your back is your best bet when you have a stuffy nose. Take a wet shower before bed or use a humidifier in your bedroom, as the moist air will make the mucus in your airways more fluid and more comfortable to come out.

4. Can sinus problems cause a runny nose?

Many of the symptoms are the same, including headache or facial pain, a runny nose, and nasal congestion. Unlike the common cold, bacterial infections can cause sinus infection symptoms

5. Can you have a runny nose and stuffy nose at the same time?

A runny nose can occur in combination with a stuffy nose, or you could have a runny nose on your own. It is caused by excess mucus production in your sinuses.