Personal care treatments

How to get rid of a stuffy nose

If dealing with the discomfort and inconvenience of a stuffy nose isn’t bad enough, there can be the stress and worry that comes with it. Even two and a half years into the pandemic, the onset of a stuffy nose can still have you stressing out and wondering “Is it a cold…is it allergies…or is it this Covid?”

The good news is that a stuffy nose is usually nothing to panic about. There are a number of reasons people have stuffy noses, says Sunet SinghMD, emergency physician and medical director of CareHive Health in Austin, Texas.

“To begin with, some people have an anatomical predisposition, such as naturally narrow nostrils or a congenitally deviated septum,” he explains. “Others may acquire anatomical abnormalities, such as when the nose turbines [the nose structures that cleanse and humidify air] get fat due to chronic inflammation due to allergies.

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In addition to these anatomical reasons, excess mucus production due to infections and allergies can also contribute to a stuffy nose, says Dr. Singh.

“Keeping a daily diary of when nasal congestion is most intense can help detect if there are environmental causes in which future exposure can be avoided or minimized,” he adds.

How to treat a stuffy nose?

If you have a stuffy nose, you can take steps to treat it at home. Dr. Singh recommends the following remedies:

1) Over-the-counter antihistamines, which can help reduce the sniffling and sneezing caused by allergies, which reduces mucus production.

2) Steroid nasal sprays (such as[artid|2139.a.34227031[src|[ch|[lt|” data-vars-ga-outbound-link=”https://www.amazon.com/dp/B088WMFYMJ” data-vars-ga-call-to-action=”Flonase” class=”body-link product-links css-16acfp5 et3p2gv0″>Flonase or Nasacort) which can reduce inflammation of the nasal passages that are brought on by allergies.

3) Nasal saline sprays and irrigation washes, which can work to soften mucus and wash it out of the nasal cavity alongside any irritating infections or allergic particles.

4) Using a steam inhaler to thin out mucus and promote easier drainage.

5) Medicated ointments containing ingredients such as eucalyptus, peppermint, or camphor. When applied to the upper chest, they vaporize and act as natural decongestants while also providing a cool, soothing sensation to the nasal passages.

Be aware that over-the-counter medicated nose drops (not sprays that only contain saline) can sometimes create rebound congestion, meaning they work for a while, but your stuffiness never completely goes away.

When should you see a doctor about a stuffy nose?

According to Dr. Singh, stuffy noses typically do not last longer than a couple of weeks. If you’ve tried all of the above solutions and you’re still stuffed up after that (or even longer), get a doctor’s opinion. Try your PCP or get the opinion of an ear, nose, and throat specialist.

Your conversation with your healthcare professional will determine the next steps of care, which might include nasal swab testing to evaluate for infections such as Covid-19.

“In other instances, a course of antibiotics may be prescribed if the cause of nasal congestion is felt to be a bacterial infection,” Dr. Singh says. “In very severe cases, you may be referred for either facial imaging studies or may undergo direct visualization of the nasal passages using specialized cameras [to determine if you need any] in-office procedures or advanced surgeries to address any significant underlying issues.

The bottom line: A stuffy nose can usually be treated at home. If 14 days pass and you are still unhappy, contact a doctor to see if there is an underlying cause that home treatments could not address.

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