Stuffy Nose


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By Medicover Hospitals / 27 Mar, 2021
Home | symptoms | stuffy-nose
  • Do you feel congested? Maybe you've been blowing your nose all day and you're almost running out of tissues, and yet you're feeling worse. You can't be productive because your head feels heavy, and it's hard for you to breathe. When it's full, the simple act of breathing can be difficult and you may feel tired.
  • Article Context:

    1. What is a Stuffy Nose?
    2. Causes
    3. Diagnosis
    4. Treatment
    5. When to visit a Doctor?
    6. Home Remedies
    7. FAQ's

    What is a Stuffy Nose?

  • Stuffy nose or "nasal congestion" is a term that refers to obstruction of the flow of air in and out of the nose. Rather, the term "runny nose" refers to a discharge that comes from the nasal passages. Nasal congestion is most commonly the result of inflammation and swelling of the tissues that line the nasal passages and sinuses. Less commonly, anatomical obstructions (eg, a deviated nasal septum, foreign bodies) can lead to nasal congestion. Long-term use of certain nasal decongestant sprays or drops can lead to a worsening of nasal congestion. In rare cases, tumors of the nasal passages or chronic medical conditions can be the cause of nasal congestion.
  • Nasal congestion is marked by:
    • A stuffy or runny nose
    • Sinus pain
    • Mucus buildup
    • Swollen nasal tissue


  • You may think that nasal congestion is the result of mucus that is too thick. However, nasal congestion usually occurs due to inflammation of the tissues lining the nose. This swelling occurs when the blood vessels in the nasal tissues dilate so that immune response cells reach the nose to fight the virus that has entered the body. Causes of nasal congestion include:
  • Virus:

  • Viruses that cause the common cold or flu often enter the body directly through the nose. Once there, they begin to multiply within the lining of the nostrils. The body's response to infection leads to inflammation that causes a stuffy nose.
  • Allergies:

  • If you experience certain allergies, you may find that your nose is frequently stuffy. Certain triggers, such as dust, pollen, and pet dander, can elicit an allergic response, which causes inflammation of the nasal tissues and leads to nasal congestion.
  • Body Positioning:

  • People with decreased movement may be more vulnerable to congestion because lying down makes it harder for the body to remove mucus.
  • Structural problems within the sinuses:

  • These may include polyps, a deviated septum, narrowing of the ducts, tumors, or an extra pocket.
  • Health conditions that reduce mucosal transport:

  • Cystic fibrosis and biliary dyskinesia are two examples of gallbladder diseases.
  • Diagnosis:

  • Nasal congestion is diagnosed by a doctor based on the symptoms and a physical examination. To assess the source of your congestion, the doctor will inspect your nose, neck, and mouth. An otolaryngologist (ENT doctor) can examine your nose using a flexible light called an endoscope. If a physical obstruction is seen or assumed, a CT scan may be necessary. A doctor can use tests such as an X-ray or a throat culture (a test that analyses substances in the back of the throat) to rule out other medical problems in unusual cases that could be causing the congestion.
  • Treatment:

  • Once your doctor has determined the cause of your chronic nasal congestion, they can recommend a treatment plan. Treatment plans often include over-the-counter or prescription medications to resolve or relieve symptoms. Nasal congestion is treated with the following medications:
    • Antihistamines, such as loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine, are used to treat allergies (Zyrtec).
    • Nasal sprays containing antihistamines including azelastine (Astelin, Astepro).
    • Mometasone (Asmanex Twisthaler) and fluticasone (Asmanex Twisthaler) are nasal steroids (Flovent Diskus, Flovent HFA).
    • 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 doctor may recommend surgery to remove them.
  • The best way to clear congestion largely depends on its cause. Some options include:
    • If a bacterial infection is a cause, antibiotics should be taken orally or topically.
    • Nasal corticosteroid sprays
    • Medications to thin mucus
    • Immunotherapy
    • Corrective surgery

    When to visit a Doctor?

  • Sometimes home remedies are not enough to relieve congestion, especially if your symptoms are caused by another health condition. In this case, you may need medical treatment, especially if your condition is painful and interferes with your daily activities.
  • If you have experienced any of the following, see your doctor immediately:
    • Congestion lasting over 10 days congestion accompanied by a high fever that lasts over 3 days green nasal discharge along with sinus pain and fever.
    • A weakened immune system, asthma, or emphysema.
    • You should also see your doctor right away if you've had a recent head injury and now have a bloody nasal discharge or a steady stream of clear discharge.

    Home Remedies:

  • To clear congestion at home, a person can try:
    • Stay hydrated
    • Taking a warm shower
    • Inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water, with a towel over your head to catch the steam
    • Keep your head elevated while sleeping
    • Trying nasal rinses
    • If you have sinus pressure or inflammation, you should take over-the-counter pain relievers
    • Applying a cool compress to parts of the face that are in pain
    • Taking prophylactic probiotics or eating probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt or kimchi
    • Taking immunity-boosting supplements, such as zinc sulfate, echinacea, vitamin C, or geranium extract
    • It's important to note that experts warn against overusing nasal sprays and decongestants, as doing so can cause congestion

    Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Nasal congestion, also called a stuffy nose, is often a symptom of another health problem, such as a sinus infection. It can also be caused by the common cold.
  • Although it may seem longer, nasal congestion usually lasts between five and 10 days, depending on whether it is caused by a viral or bacterial infection.
  • Explain that a study in healthy volunteers found that breathing cold air and, to a lesser but still significant degree, air with less humidity led to a perception of greater nasal permeability.
  • Taking a hot shower, or even just sitting in the bath with the hot shower, can help relieve pressure and nasal and sinus congestion.
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