Nasal congestion is a very common condition. In fact, most people get a blocked or stuffy nose from time to time. Although annoying, it is rarely serious.
Nasal congestion can develop when the blood vessels inside the nose become inflamed and the nasal tissues swell. Excess mucus drainage may also occur with a stuffy nose.
In many cases, nasal congestion is only a temporary problem. The following conditions can lead to a stuffy nose:
- Viral infections like the common cold or flu
- Allergic rhinitis or hayfever due pollen, grasses, dust or pets
When someone has a stuffy nose, it may be accompanied by other symptoms. It’s common to also have sneezing and a dripping nose. Nasal congestion can also lead to a headache in some people.
Although it can be uncomfortable, a stuffy nose is nothing to worry about in most cases. Still, there may be times when it’s best to see a doctor, such as if symptoms don’t seem to be going away.
The amount of time it takes for symptoms to improve may depend on the cause but most people recover from a cold in about 10 days. If symptoms continue for more than 10 days, it may be time to see a doctor.
Addition symptoms to watch for that may signal something more serious than a stuffy nose include:
- green mucus draining from the nose
- facial pain
- pain in the ear
- chest tightness
People who develop any of the symptoms above may want to see their doctor to rule out a bacterial infection or any other complication.
To keep your nasal passages moist, you can:
- Use a humidifier or vaporiser.
- Take long showers or breathe in steam from a pot of warm (but not too hot) water.
- Drink lots of fluids. This will thin out your mucus, which could help prevent blocked sinuses.
- Use a nasal saline spray. It’s salt water, and it will help keep your nasal passages from drying out.
- Try a saline nose rinse with a squeeze bottle or Neti pot.
- Place a warm, wet towel on your face. It may relieve discomfort and open your nasal passages.
- Prop yourself up. At night, lie on a couple of pillows. Keeping your head elevated may make breathing more comfortable.
- Avoid chlorinated pools. They can irritate your nasal passages.