A stuffy nose is an annoying, distracting, and very common problem. Most of us get an occasional stuffy nose from viral infections (such as a cold), from allergies, or as a side-effect of pregnancy. Inflammation and swelling inside the nose make you feel stuffed up and uncomfortable. Mucus and drainage may also join the party. You don’t necessarily need to run to the doctor every time you get the sniffles. In most cases nasal congestion can be treated effectively at home.
Steam Up the Bathroom
Take a hot shower or soak in a warm bath to decrease nasal congestion. The steam helps mucus drain from the nose and improves breathing. Although the benefits of the steam may not last, it provides temporary relief … which can be all you need to get through the day or get some precious sleep.
Warmth may decrease sinus congestion and tightness in the nose and face. Wet a washcloth with very warm water and apply it to the face (be sure it isn’t too hot). You can add slices of fresh ginger or lemon to the water while soaking the washcloth for a pleasant aroma and additional relief.
A shot or two of store-bought saline spray (a mix of salt and sterile water) may help decrease tissue inflammation in the nose. These sprays do not contain medication, so they are usually safe to use during pregnancy. You can buy them over-the-counter in many stores.
There are several kinds of bottles that can be used to flush out sinuses. Neti pots are used to effectively wash mucus out of sinuses, but they require you to “sniff” in liquid, which can be hard for some people. A specially-designed squeeze bottle and saline solution can also be to flush the mucus out of each nostril. Distilled or previously boiled water (that is cooled) can be used to avoid bacteria from tap water.
Adding moisture to the air from a cool mist humidifier can help to thin mucus and make draining easier. It can also help to reduce inflammation inside the nose. It’s important to keep a humidifier clean to prevent bacterial growth inside the machine. Follow the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations.
Be sure to drink enough water. Being well-hydrated causes the mucus to be more thin and makes it easier to push fluid from the nose.
Eucalyptus oil is a concentrated natural oil from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree. For adults without allergies to eucalyptus, inhaling the oil can decrease inflammation of the nasal lining and make breathing easier. Place a few drops of the oil in a pot of simmering water to fill your room with the scent and steam, or use an essential oil diffuser.
Some stuffy noses are due to allergic reaction. Some allergy medications contain antihistamine to block this reaction. Read the directions and understand the side effects before taking these medications.
Decongestants also help with nasal congestion. They work by causing small blood vessels in the nose to narrow, which decreases swelling. Over-the-counter and prescription medications are available. If you have high blood pressure, ask your doctor before taking decongestants. Decongestants can have side effects, so be informed before taking them.
If your nasal congestion continues for more than 10 days, it may be time to see a doctor. Other things that might signal a more serious problem and require a visit to our offices include:
– green mucus
– facial pain
– pain in the ear
– chest tightness
If you have any questions or concerns, grab your tissues and make an appointment today!