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What is Nasal Congestion?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Nasal congestion is a condition in which a person’s nose is said to be stuffed up. This means the nose is hard to breath through, and patients may have the urge to blow it frequently. It is a common misconception that nose congestion is caused by excess mucus clogging a person’s nose. In fact, the mucus is not the problem. A person actually develops a stuffy nose when inflammation causes the lining of the nose to swell.

In most cases, nasal congestion is caused by some type of virus. For example, a person may experience it when he has a common cold. It can also develop because of allergies. A person can also experience a stuffy nose if he develops a sinus infection, which may be caused by a virus or bacteria. Additionally, some people cause a stuffy nose by overusing nasal spray products.

Nasal congestion can also develop as a symptom of a condition called vasomotor rhinitis. This condition is marked by nasal secretions, congestion, and sneezing that is not associated with an illness or allergy. Doctors are unsure of its cause.

For most people, nasal congestion is little more than a temporary annoyance. It usually passes quickly, clearing up as soon as the illness is over or after allergy treatment. Many people use over-the-counter cold medicines, decongestants, and antihistamines to treat it. Some people, however, prefer non-medicinal treatments. For example, a person may use saline sprays or drops to treat it; standing in a steaming shower or using a humidifier may help as well.

Often, nasal congestion gets worse once a person lies down. This can make it difficult to rest comfortably and sleep. To get around this, a person may elevate the back of his bed or even place extra pillows under his head. While this won’t eliminate the congestion, it may help the patient to stay comfortable enough to rest.

While congestion is usually just an unpleasant symptom of an illness or condition, it can be dangerous for some people. Newborn and very young babies must breath through their noses. If they cannot, they can become fussy and may have great difficulty nursing. In some rare cases, an infant may even develop breathing problems because of nasal congestion.

When it affects older children, nasal congestion is unlikely to cause life-threatening problems. It can, however, impair the development of normal speech and hearing. It can also cause snoring, both in children and adults.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By popcorn — On Oct 17, 2011

I have terrible allergies and suffer from chronic nasal congestion. I have tried all sorts of nasal congestion relief and I feel like they all work for a short time then I get stuffed up again.

Does anyone have any good home remedies to take care of nasal congestion? It would be also great if it took care of chest congestion as well.

I have talked to my doctor about my issues but he always gives me the same medications which don't really do much. Even when my infection is gone I still suffer from a clogged nose.

By lonelygod — On Oct 17, 2011

Whenever I get nasal sinus congestion I find that eating spicy foods helps to clear out my sinuses. I still use over-the-counter medication but the spicy foods seems to work a lot quicker.

I have also read that spicy foods are really good for building up your immune system so that you get sick less often. While I am not sure if that's a fact or not, there is nothing like a nice curry when you have a cold.

Another great thing is to drink hot tea. I find that the steam helps soothe a sore throat as well as break up additional congestion.

By runner101 — On Oct 16, 2011

One of my sinus and nasal congestion remedies that works every time even when I have severe nasal congestion (we're talking on the verge or at the beginning a sinus infection) is to use a neti pot.

I have mentioned this to some of my friends and they have mentioned that they think the neti pot seems awkward to use, because it is literally a pot of saline water that you pour into your nostril holding your head in such a way that the water comes out the other nostril after going through your sinuses and rinsing them out.

In fact, I thought it would just feel too weird, but after getting tired of being stuffed up, I thought I should at least try it. And the immediate relief was amazing and it did not feel weird at all, not even a little bit when the water went from nostril to nostril.

Occasionally the water will drip to the back of your throat and that might be uncomfortable to some, but that was the most discomfort I felt and it was minimal for me.

Has anyone else tried the neti pot?

By Saraq90 — On Oct 16, 2011

I never used to get sinus infections until I had a boyfriend in college who had a few every fall to winter. Luckily when they have the medicine for this down to a science and you take the medicine for two to three days and you are good to go.

However, don't make the mistake that I did the first time I experienced a sinus infection. Don't dismiss is as a cold. When you are worn out at the end of the day and you have a headache or slight body chills or sweatiness - go to the doctor!

I waited a week, when the whole experience could have been over in two to three days!

By GreenWeaver — On Oct 16, 2011

I am just getting over a nasty cold and had a lot of severe nasal congestion symptoms. My nose was stuffed and I could barely breathe which was especially uncomfortable at night when I was trying to sleep.

I got a nasal decongestant and used it before bed and it really helped. I will also say that the 24 hour version of Claritin is fantastic and dried the mucous in my nose almost immediately.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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