Nasal congestion, often referred to as a stuffy nose, occurs when the tissues and blood vessels in and around the nasal passages become swollen with extra fluid. This causes the “stuffy” feeling, and in some cases, nasal discharge may accompany the stuffy nose.
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What Causes a Runny, Stuffy Nose?
Many things can result in a runny, stuffy nose, including colds, allergies, and irritants. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the other potential causes of a stuffy, runny nose include:
- Cold temperatures
- Deviated septum
- Cluster headaches
- Food allergies
- Certain medications
- Occupational asthma
- Spicy foods
- Nasal polyps
- Thyroid problems
- Other types of infections
- Nasal irritants, such as hair spray, dust, wood or coal smoke, cigarette smoke, or perfume
Is a Stuffy Nose Serious?
In most cases, feeling congested and having a runny nose is not a serious problem. However, it can be serious in babies, and it could signify that you are dealing with a more serious problem. You should call your physician if you have a high fever, if your nasal congestion lasts over 10 days, if there’s blood in the nasal discharge, or if you notice a green nasal discharge. If you have a baby, call your child’s physician if your baby has difficulty breathing or nursing and if your baby has a fever with a stuffy nose.
Over the Counter Treatments for a Stuffy Nose
If you are trying to figure out how to get rid of a stuffy nose fast, you will find that many over the counter treatments are available. Here is a look at excellent over the counter treatments that may help control your symptoms.
- Antihistamines – When you wonder how to clear a stuffy nose, antihistamines may prove helpful if allergies are causing nasal congestion. Antihistamines can help control the sneezing and sniffling of a runny nose. You may want to find an antihistamine that includes a decongestant if you are dealing with sinus pressure. Examples of antihistamines available over the counter include Benadryl, Sudafed, and Tavist-D. Antihistamines can be used in children over the age of five. antihistamine to children under the age of five.
- Decongestants – According to WebMD, decongestants are excellent over the counter treatment for a stuffy nose because they help reduce the swelling in the nasal passages, relieving the sinus pressure and stuffiness. Decongestants are often the best choice when you want to know how to get rid of a stuffy nose overnight because they work quickly. You can find decongestants in several forms, including pills and nasal sprays. However, it is best to avoid using oral decongestant sprays for more than seven days, and you should avoid using nasal sprays for more than three days unless directed by your physicians. Keep in mind that these medications are not recommended in children under six unless directed by a physician.
- Pain Relievers – While over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, and acetaminophen, will not eliminate the stuffiness, they can help reduce some of the pain that comes from the sinus pressure.
Home Remedies for a Stuffy Nose
How do you get rid of a stuffy nose quickly? While over the counter treatments may provide some relief, you can also use home remedies to reduce nasal congestion. If you don’t want to use medications, try one or more home remedies.
1. Start Using a Humidifier – If you’re dealing with a stuffy nose due to the flu or a cold, your nasal passages may feel dehydrated and dried out. EverydayHealth.com notes that using a humidifier relieves a stuffy, runny nose because it adds moisture to the air, reducing congestion. However, it is always important to make sure the humidifier is clean to avoid mould and bacteria growth, which could worsen your sinus problems.
2. Take a Steamy, Warm Shower – If you are miserable, ask yourself, “How do I get rid of a stuffy nose fast?” Healthline.com recommends taking a steamy, warm shower. The steam and humidity from the shower will help thin the mucus in the sinuses and nose while reducing inflammation. After the shower, you will notice that it’s much easier to breathe.
3. Drink Plenty of Fluids – Many things that cause a stuffy nose to result in dehydration, so make sure you drink plenty of fluids when trying to get rid of that stuffy nose. The fluids will help thin out the mucus, making your nose feel less congested.
4. Irrigate Your Sinuses – Sinus irrigation has been used for centuries, and if you are trying to find out how to get rid of a stuffy, runny nose, irrigating the nasal passages may help. According to WebMD, irrigating the nasal passages with salt water helps wash away the mucus and other debris. The water also ensures that your nasal passages stay moist. You can rinse the sinuses using a neti pot, a nasal irrigator, or a syringe. Always make sure that you use sterile, previously boiled, or distilled water when making your irrigation solution. After using the irrigation devices, rinse it thoroughly and let it air dry. If you don’t want to rinse the sinuses, you can use a saline nose spray, which will help ensure that your nasal passages stay moist.
5. Warm Compresses – The Huffington Post recommends using moist, warm compresses on your face if dealing with a stuffy nose. The warmth may help relieve congestion and provide some humidification for the nasal passages. Warm compresses also feel great on the face if your sinuses are congested. Use the compresses around the forehead, eyes, and nasal areas, where sinus pressure and pain usually occur.
6. Hot Liquids – Drinking hot liquids can help relieve the congestion that comes with a stuffy nose. myhealthcaretips.com notes that warm milk, hot tea, or hot soups are great options to try while you’re dealing with a stuffy, runny nose. The warmth from the liquids helps to warm the nasal passages, relieving some of the pressure, pain, and congestion.
7. Avoid Certain Foods – While hot liquids are great for reducing stuffiness, certain foods can make mucus levels worse, increasing nasal congestion. Foods that you should avoid include all foods that contain dairies, such as ice cream, milk, cheese, and yogurt. Casein, which is found in dairy, increases mucus levels in many individuals, so skip the dairy until you have eliminated the problem with the runny, stuffy nose.
8. Elevate the Head When Sleeping – When you go to bed at night, it’s important to elevate your head. This allows the secretions to drain, relieving the stuffy nose. According to BabyMD, this is also important for babies, so make sure your baby’s head is elevated if he has a stuffy nose.
Some other helpful home care tips you can use when trying to get rid of a stuffy nose include:
- Avoid drinking alcohol since it can cause dehydration, making the stuffy nose worse
- Get plenty of sleep
- Try using a vaporizer, especially at night
- Stop smoking
- Gently blow your hose
- Avoid secondhand smoke
- If the nostrils become dry, apply a bit of petroleum jelly to the nostrils
Dealing with a stuffy nose can make you feel uncomfortable. However, using home remedies can often provide you with the relief you need, reducing the inflammation and swelling that caused the problem. Over the counter medications can also provide some relief, but it is also important to use over the counter medications carefully.
Only use them as directed and avoid taking them for an extended period. If home remedies and over the counter medications do not provide relief, you may want to see your doctor.