Nasal congestion results in a sensation of stuffiness inside the nose. There may also be difficulty in breathing through the nose. Sneezing and discharge from the nose may occur in some cases. Severe nasal congestion may lead to problems while speaking, hearing or sleeping. Most cases of nasal congestion can be taken care of at home itself. However, if unusual symptoms such as swelling of the eyes and blurred vision occur, then it is advisable to consult a doctor. Medical examination is also recommended if there is a cough with green or yellow mucus or if the congestion persists for more than two weeks.
The most common causes of nasal congestion are viral or bacterial infections. Conditions such as the common cold, influenza and sinus infections commonly result in a congested nose. In such cases, the congestion is likely to subside within a week. Other causes of nasal congestion include allergic rhinitis, nasal polyps or vasomotor rhinitis. Pregnant women may also experience congestion of the nose due to hormonal changes taking place in the body. People who use nasal drops or sprays for a long period of time may find that the congestion becomes worse with time. Conditions that cause chronic congestion of the nose may contribute to sleep apnea. Nasal congestion is also a common symptom that occurs in individuals with a deviated septum. This is a condition in which the bone and cartilage in the center of the nose is crooked or off center. This results in breathing difficulty.
Individuals with a weaker immune system such as babies, young children and elderly persons are more vulnerable to developing respiratory infections which can thereby lead to nasal congestion. People with hay fever may also suffer from chronic nasal congestion. In some cases nasal congestion can occur in newborn infants and this needs to be addressed at once since babies are only able to breathe through the nose.
There are several home remedies that can help to relieve nasal congestion. One of the most popular and common home treatments for a stuffy nose is a vapor rub. The menthol present in the vapor rub helps to open up the nasal passages. A small amount may be rubbed on to the chest and around the nostrils in order to ease congestion. There are many different types of vapor rub available in the market. Sipping on hot liquids also helps to reduce congestion in the nose. The steam arising from the hot liquids helps to soothe and open up the airways. Warm herbal teas or hot chicken soup are ideal for relieving a stuffy nose. Avoid drinking caffeine as it could worsen congestion. Nasal congestion is often aggravated while sleeping, as lying down worsens the stuffy feeling. Sleeping with the head elevated is helpful as it enables drainage of the nasal passage.
For congestion that occurs due to sinus infections, one of the best remedies is to place a warm compress on the eyes or face. This helps to reduce discomfort associated with sinusitis or allergies. You may place a moist and hot towel over the aching areas. Steam inhalation is highly effective in easing nasal congestion. Boil some water in a large pan and inhale the steam rising from it. Drape a towel around the head so that the steam remains trapped within. You can also add a few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus oil to the water. The steam from a hot shower is also beneficial in alleviating congestion. A less known, but effective home remedy for nasal congestion is tomato tea. It provided the body with vitamin C, which strengthens the immune system. Add a teaspoon of minced garlic, half a teaspoon of hot sauce and a teaspoon of lemon juice to a cup of tomato juice. Warm up the mixture and then consume it. The garlic will help to prevent infection and the hot sauce will enable drainage of the nasal passage. Oil of oregano can also be used to alleviate congestion in the respiratory tract. Add a few drops of the essential oil to fruit juice and consume thrice daily. You can also add essential oils to steaming water for aromatherapy steam inhalation. Tea tree oil is known to be beneficial in alleviating congestion in the nasal passage. Add about eight drops of tea tree oil to two cups of boiling water and inhale the steam. To encourage drainage of mucus from the nasal passage, you can also add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and ¼ teaspoon of salt to approximately eight ounces of warm water. Release a few drops of the solution into the nose using an eyedropper. Remember to keep the head back and take deep breaths. After a few minutes, blow your nose to drain the mucus. Another remedy for congestion is to place some powdered carom seeds in a cloth and keep it near your pillow. This is believed to help clear up a congested nose.
Nasal sprays that are commonly available over-the-counter are highly effective in treating nasal congestion. In cases of severe congestion, doctors usually prescribe stronger nasal sprays. These may produce certain side effects such as dizziness, elevated heart rate, bitter taste and anxiety. People who suffer from heart problems, high blood pressure or thyroid disorders should not make use of such sprays. You can even make a homemade spray using salt. Saline sprays are also available in drug stores. To make a nasal spray at home, add ¼ teaspoon of non-iodized salt and ¼ teaspoon of baking soda to a cup of boiling water. Stir until the ingredients are dissolved and then allow it to cool. Pour it into a sterilized container and then use. The saline solution can also be used for nasal irrigation.
There are also decongestant medications available in drug stores that help to reduce swelling of the nasal blood vessels and alleviate inflammation. There are some side effects of such drugs such as fatigue, dizziness and nervousness and hence it is better to consult a doctor before taking them. People who are on asthma medication or those with hypertension and heart or kidney disease should avoid taking these drugs. Adhesive strips may be found in some drug stores. These encourage widening of the nostrils and hence help you breathe easier.
Nasal congestion can be prevented in various ways. Cold and dry weather can lead to cold and allergic symptoms and hence it is advisable to use a humidifier in the house. This will help to keep the home humid and comfortable in winter. Individuals with allergic rhinitis should avoid exposure to potential allergens such as dust, pollen, mold, animal dander and fungi. It is important to cover the nose when the pollen count is high. It is also advisable to dust and clean the home regularly in order to get rid of dust mites. Some individuals experience allergies when they inhale chemical fumes or smoke and hence care must be taken to protect oneself from such irritants. Viral infections can be prevented by strengthening your immunity with a high intake of vitamin C. Colds and flu commonly occur when the immune system is weak and a good intake of vitamin C will help to protect the body from such conditions.
Chicken soup is one of the most popular foods for nasal congestion. You can add some black pepper to chicken soup or broth to encourage opening up of the air passages. Many people obtain relief from nasal congestion by consuming spicy foods. Such foods encourage the drainage of mucus.
Certain substances can worsen nasal congestion. It is best to refrain from consuming alcohol when suffering from a stuffy nose. Alcohol has a drying effect on the nasal passage and hence can trigger inflammation of the blood vessels. Foods such as ice cream and dairy products like milk and cheese should also be avoided as these can thicken the nasal secretions and aggravate stuffiness. Also avoid drinking caffeinated beverages as they can dry out the nasal passage.
Chlorine can cause irritation to the mucus membranes in the nose and hence it is advisable to avoid swimming in chlorinated pools when you have a stuffy nose.