Nasal congestion is often a symptom of other health problems. A sinus infection, seasonal allergies, or the common cold or flu can often cause congestion in the nasal passage. In this condition, the flow of air through the nose is obstructed. The tissues lining the nasal passage become inflamed and swollen. From causes to symptoms and treatment, here’s everything you need to know about nasal congestion.
Nasal congestion occurs when the lining inside the nose becomes inflamed. This causes the nasal passage to become stuffed. Nasal congestion can arise due to minor health problems, such as the common cold or flu and sinus infections. All of these can cause a stuffy or runny nose. Mild nasal congestion typically goes away in a week.
In some women, nasal congestion may occur in the first trimester of pregnancy due to hormonal changes. Moreover, increased blood flow can also cause the nasal passages to become dry or inflamed.
If you experience nasal congestion for more than a week, then it can be an indication of an underlying health condition. Some of the common causes of nasal congestion are:
- Nasal polyps
- Chronic sinusitis
- Cystic fibrosis
- Biliary dyskinesia
- Occupational asthma
- Sleep apnea
- Nasal septum deviation
- Upper respiratory tract infections
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Hay fever
- Exposure to environmental irritants, such as tobacco smoke and car exhaust
- Disorders of the thyroid gland
- Enlarged adenoids
- Pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds
- Mold, animal dander, dust mites, and cockroach debris
- Reduced immune function
- Overuse of decongestant nasal spray
- Eating too much spicy food
- Dry air
- Certain medications
- Severe stress
The tell-tale symptom of nasal congestion is a stuffy nose. Some may also experience a runny nose. The symptoms of nasal congestion vary from person to person. Some common ones include the following:
- Clear or watery nasal discharge
- Yellow or greenish mucus (indicates a bacterial infection)
- Bad breath
- Fever and headache
- Fatigue and mild body pain
- Facial pain
- Itchy and watery eyes
- Itchy nose, throat, and mouth
- Sore throat
- Pain in the upper jaw
- Tooth pain
While a nasal decongestant and some home remedies can be helpful in treating mild congestion, a moderate to severe case may require more intense treatment. Hence, it is crucial to consult a medical professional if any of the above-mentioned symptoms are observed.
In children, especially infants and toddlers, the signs of nasal congestion differ a bit. Parents and caregivers need to watch out for the following symptoms in order to avoid developmental issues.
- Facing trouble while eating
- Disturbed sleep
- Breathing issues
- Increased agitation
- A low appetite
- Too much fussiness
- Choking on excess mucus
The symptoms of mild nasal congestion can be easily alleviated through over-the-counter medications or home remedies. Nasal rinses, steam, warm showers, and antihistamine medications are some ways of dealing with the condition.
For chronic nasal congestion, it is essential to consult a doctor. There are several treatments that have been found to be effective in providing relief from a congested nasal passage. Here are some of them:
Anti-allergy medications are often prescribed to provide relief from nasal congestion symptoms. Oral antihistamines, such as loratadine and cetirizine, are often consumed after consultation with a medical professional.
- Nasal sprays
Prescription-strength nasal sprays are also used under medical supervision to treat nasal congestion. Most of these sprays contain antihistamines. These are effective in treating a stuffy nose that arises from severe allergies.
- Nasal steroids
Nasal steroids have anti-inflammatory effects when sprayed inside the nasal passage. These sprays can provide relief from nasal congestion caused by fever, sinus infections, and nasal polyps.
If nasal congestion results from bacterial or viral infections, then doctors recommend antibiotics.
Surgery is usually required when tumors or nasal polyps are blocking the sinuses or nasal passages. The type of surgery often depends on the cause and severity of the congestion.