What are the Causes of a Persistent Stuffy Nose?
Practically everyone has had to deal with a stuffy nose or nasal congestion as it is referred to medically, at various times throughout their life, and it’s never very pleasant. If it’s severe enough, it can make you feel like you can’t breathe through your nose, and must take in air through your mouth instead.
A stuffy nose can also make it difficult to get to sleep at night, it can trigger headaches, and if it persists long enough, it can leave you physically drained and fatigued from having to deal with it. Since the symptoms associated with nasal congestion can be fairly severe, it’s worthwhile to try and understand their causes, with an eye toward prevention, or at least remediation of the worst symptoms.
Causes of Nasal Congestion
Sometimes the delicate tissues inside your nose and the blood vessels which surround them can become swollen with excessive levels of fluid, and that’s the stuffy feeling people experience which feels like the nose is being blocked. Although there can be a discharge of fluid when this happens, a runny nose does not always accompany the stuffy sensation. Some of the most common causes for the stuffy nose feeling are the following:
- excessive usage of decongestants
- changes in hormone levels
- excessively dry air
- viruses and infections such as sinusitis, flu, and colds
- various kinds of allergies
- external irritants such as the smoke from tobacco, or from other airborne pollutants.
There are some other potential causes of runny noses which are less common, but still very possible:
- hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism
- some kind of foreign agent lodged in the nose
- swollen adenoids
- some kind of structural blockage as from a tumor deviated septum or polyps
- vasomotor rhinitis
- non-allergic rhinitis.
There are some home remedies you can try for the relief of nasal congestion, and some of these can be fairly effective:
- try drinking lots of water so as to thin out the mucus
- blow your nose gently
- take hot showers, which allows steam to penetrate into nasal passages
- avoid cigarette smoke and all known polluted air
- don’t expose yourself to allergic triggers
- use nasal saline sprays
- use over-the-counter antihistamines
- when the affected persons are small children or babies, try using a bulb syringe to extract any nasal secretions.
When is Medical Attention Necessary?
While home remedies can be at least somewhat effective, there are times where they simply won’t do the job, and it becomes necessary to seek medical attention. If the nasal congestion condition persists for more than 10 days or if it becomes chronic, that’s a sign that home remedies are going to be insufficient for effecting a cure.
That’s when it’s time to call your doctor and make an appointment to have your nasal congestion examined, to determine the real cause of the problem and get some proper relief. There are other times when you shouldn’t wait for 10 days to elapse but should call your doctor right away because more pressing symptoms appear, and the level of urgency is increased.
Some of those situations include the following:
- for babies, when a stuffy nose is observed, and he/she refuses to nurse
- there is a recurring discharge of clear material following some kind of head trauma or injury
- when you observe blood in a nasal discharge
- your stuffy nose is accompanied by a high fever
- nasal discharge has a greenish or yellowish color and is accompanied by either a fever or severe sinus pains.
Treatments for Nasal Congestion
Some of the best treatments for nasal congestion are available over-the-counter without a prescription from your physician. Decongestants help to diminish the swelling and nasal passages, and they can ease that sensation of sinus pressure and stuffiness. There are a great many of these available over-the-counter, and whichever one you choose, you should carefully follow all directions printed on the label. You shouldn’t use an oral decongestant for longer than a week unless you have consulted with your doctor about it. Nasal decongestants should not be used for longer than three days, or they may end up contributing to your congestion instead of diminishing it. If you have any other health problems besides your nasal congestion, you should check with your doctor about the advisability of taking a decongestant.
Antihistamines are another effective medical tool for combating nasal congestion, particularly if your nasal congestion is due to an allergy. By controlling the allergy, all other symptoms should be relieved to some extent. When you go shopping for an antihistamine, look for one which relieves sneezing and sniffling, and which includes a decongestant to manage sinus pressure and the congestion itself. Some multi-symptom cold medications contain antihistamines to relieve the runny nose part of your problem.
If you are bothered by difficulty sleeping, it might be a good choice to purchase a night-time cold medicine, because these can help manage the symptoms effectively, so that you can get a good night’s sleep.
A third option for relief of symptoms surrounding nasal congestion is a pain reliever. These won’t do anything to help clear up congestion, but they can definitely diminish pains which are associated with sinus pressure. As with both decongestants and antihistamines, you should carefully read the printed instructions on the label before using.