Nasal congestion – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Home remedies

Overview: Nasal Congestion

Did you ever try breathing through your nose? You must have felt that while breathing with the mouth, the throat becomes dry and a mild discomfort sets in. The reason of this dryness and discomfort is due to the dry air that enters our system through the mouth; the air that we inhale by the nose is also dry but it gets moisturised and humidified by the complex multiple layers present in the nose called turbinates.

It is very important to breathe through the nose rather than the mouth. Nose regulates the air temperature we breathe, cleanses the dust and dirt present in the air that is inhaled and protects our body from toxic gases, smoke, and spoiled food by detecting them with the sense of smell. People who have lost the sense of smell or have a blocked nose need to be careful while eating food. Our nose also determines the sound of our voice. Therefore when a person is experiencing a nose blockage, the voice changes and difficulty arises while having a conversation. One of the crucial parts of the nose is the sinuses.

Sinuses comprise of air-filled structures that present in the dense portion of the skull bone and they are responsible to decrease the weight of the skull. It regulates the amount of nitric oxide in the body and lungs; is a part of voice resonance.

What is nasal congestion?

Nasal congestion is a respiratory condition that occurs due to internal inflammation but the affected person feels that something is jammed in the nasal passage. Also termed as stuffy nose, this condition can be very annoying and disturbs the entire breathing process through the nose. A stuffy nose affects the voice leading to a funny sound when you speak.

People suffering from nasal congestion complain of a feeling that makes them think that too much of mucus is present in the nasal passage but the truth is the clogged feel is a result of the inflamed blood vessels in the sinuses or swollen tissues and nasal parts. The inflammation can get triggered due to flu, allergy condition, sinus infection, or a common cold.

Nasal congestion can affect all age group and is known to affect and cause more difficulty in children than adults. Sleeping pattern and consuming food becomes tough for children with nasal congestion, also for infants this respiratory disorder becomes a serious condition. In rare cases, nasal congestion can be caused due to the formation of tumours in the nasal passage.

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Signs and symptoms of nasal congestion

Nasal congestion may or may not cause nasal discharge or runny nose. The person continuously feels uneasy and is bugged with a feeling that something has got stuck in the nasal passage that is making breathing difficult. The general misconception that stays in the mind is that there is a presence of an excess of mucus but the truth is internal swelling or presence of inflamed blood vessels. Some of the sign and symptoms that can arise due to nasal congestion are-

signs and symptoms of nasal congestion
Signs of nasal congestion
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty to swallow food
  • Discomfort in the eyes and redness
  • Body pain that can arise in the foot, hip or chest
  • Bad breath
  • Pain in the ears
  • Watery eyes
  • Fever
  • Itchiness in the nose, throat, or mouth
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose (may be not)

The symptoms in children or infant are slightly different from the symptoms experienced by an adult-

  • Presence of a wheezing sound while breathing
  • Discomfort while sleeping
  • Persistent crying
  • Sweating or chills
  • Vomiting

Main causes of nasal congestion

Nasal congestion or stuffy nose is a temporary respiratory condition and goes away within a few days. The prime cause of such a respiratory condition is irritation or inflammation in the nasal tissue. Mainly arrives due to diseases like common cold, flu, sinusitis, or allergies. People who are majorly exposed to a dusty environment are more prone to get affected by nasal congestion. Tobacco smoke and car exhaust are the common types of triggers of the stuffy nose; there are several causes of nasal congestion, list of a few of those-

  • Presence of foreign particle in the nose
  • Sinus infection
  • Changes in hormones
  • Consumption spicy food
  • Pregnancy
  • Excess smoking
  • Stress issues
  • Medications that are used to treat high blood pressure, depression, erectile dysfunction etc
  • Alcohol
  • Vasomotor Rhinitis
  • Common cold or flu
  • Hay fever
  • Allergies
  • Nasal polyps
  • Influenza
  • Occupational asthma-caused due to breathing excess dust, fumes, chemical gases or other substances in a job site
  • Injury on the nose
  • Presence of tumour in the nasal passage
  • Thyroid disorders

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How nasal congestion is diagnosed?

Based on the severity of the sign and symptoms, the doctor precedes the treatment. Body parts such as nose, ears, and the throat are closely examined to know the cause of the illness. Nasal congestion requires the medical help of an otolaryngologist (ENT physician). The first thing that the doctor observes is the nose with the help of a flexible light called an endoscope.

CT scan is also recommended at times by the doctor when an internal obstruction is suspected or observed. X-ray or throat culture (helps to observe things that might be present at the back of the throat) is performed in rare cases to diagnose if anything else is causing the nasal congestion.

When to see a doctor?

In children, if you observe that the child is finding it difficult to breathe properly, causing disturbance in sleep, presence of greenish coloured mucus, fever that last for more than 3 days along with regular cough and in infants if the baby is continuously crying and not eating properly then you must immediately get medical help. For adults, if you’re experiencing dizziness, severe headaches, body pain, difficulty in breathing for a couple of days, don’t delay thinking, “It will get better”, delaying can cause a severe disturbance at night, thus leading sleepless night.

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Home remedies for nasal congestion

Home remedies can prove to be effective for a lot of diseases, for nasal congestion one can try a few methods to provide relief-

  • Take a hot shower

Taking a hot shower or hot water bath can relieve the body ache and at the same time will provide relief to the blockage as hot water has the power to heal. You can also add salt to the hot water to gain effective results.

  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer

A humidifier or vaporizer is an electric device that converts water to steam or moisture that gradually fills the air thus increasing the humidity of the room. Breathing in such a humidified condition can provide relief/soothe the swollen blood vessels and irritated tissues in the sinuses and nose. Using a humidifier can prove to be very fruitful as it helps to release the fluids present in the nose and allow you to breathe normally.

  • Drink lots of water or any fluid

All kinds of liquids that help your body to stay hydrated are useful to provide comfort while experiencing nasal congestion. When you drink water, especially warm water, it helps to thin the mucus that might block the nasal passage. You can take juices, warm soup or herbal tea, taking warm liquid can also provide relief to your sore throat.

  • Saline spray

Saline or salt water solution can increase the moisture level in the nostrils. It also decreases the inflammation in the blood vessels, saline sprays are easily available in a chemist shop but it is important to consult with the doctor before using it.

  • Take allergy medicine if required

If a person is suffering from nasal congestion or stuffy nose due to some allergy condition then they can opt for allergy medicine. Medical consultation is necessary to avoid further complications.

  • Use an extra pillow while sleeping

Nasal congestion can lead to sleepless night due. To sleep in a comfortable posture, try to use an extra pillow while sleeping, put it below the head; this will elevate the head and may make breathing more comfortable.

  • Hot or wet towel therapy

Take a warm-wet towel and place it on your face. This will help to open the nasal passage and provide comfort. Try to repeat it a couple of times, two times a day.

  • Avoid swimming

Chlorinated pools can irritate your nasal passage and worsen the condition; even swimming with a clogged nose can be difficult. Therefore it is safe to avoid swimming till you your condition gets better.

  • Decongestants

Decongestant medicine helps to provide relief by treating the swelling and irritation of the nasal passage. It is present in both pill and spray form. One of the common decongestants include pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Sudogest)


Que 1. How do you clear up nasal congestion?
Ans- Try using home remedies like place a warm and wet towel on your face, use a saline spray, you can also add a humidifier or vaporizer, take a warm shower, drink lots of fluids and avoid chlorinated pools.

Que 2. Is Vicks vapour rub good for nasal congestion?
Ans- Vicks vapour rub which is an ointment that includes ingredients like menthol, camphor and eucalyptus oil doesn’t really relieve nasal congestion. It can provide temporary relief and cannot cure it.

Que 3. How long does nasal congestion last?
Ans- Nasal congestion is known to last for 5 to 10 days if the infection has been caused due to viruses or bacteria but if the nasal congestion is due to an allergic reaction it may last longer. Try using a nasal decongestion to provide relief.

Que 4. What is a natural decongestant?
Ans- Vitamin C can provide a lot of relief to nasal congestion, consuming vitamin C rich food such as guava, orange, broccoli, cauliflower and capsicum can help fight a clogged nose condition but if the nasal congestion is due to allergies than vitamin C won’t be effective. You can also try herbal treatment methods like using menthol or eucalyptus oil.

Que 5. How do you sleep with a blocked nose?
Ans- Before sleeping diffuse a few drops of menthol or essential oil in your bedroom. Use a humidifier which can help in the breathing process. Elevate your sleeping position so that your head is raised a bit and also try to keep your bedroom cool and dark.

Que 6. Is it dangerous to sleep with a blocked nose?
Ans- No but it certainly is very difficult to sleep when one experiences a blocked nose. A person might wake up countless times feeling difficulty in breathing with the pressure of congestion.

Que 7. What is the best nasal spray for a blocked nose?
Ans- Saline spray can help a lot to provide relief and increase the moisture in the nostrils. This spray is known to thin the mucus in the nasal passages thus decreasing the inflammation in the blood vessels and empty the fluids present in the nose.

Que 8. Should I go to the doctor for congestion?
Ans-If the nasal congestion persists for more than 10 days accompanied by fever that has a temperature of over 100.4 degrees F and there is a discharge of yellow or green mucus then you must immediately consult with the doctor.

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