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Tips for Beating Nasal Congestion

Tips for Beating Nasal Congestion

Virtually everyone gets a stuffy nose from time to time. Whether it’s due to allergies, illness, or something else, nasal congestion can make breathing hard, disrupt sleep, and leave you lousy. Even if you expect it to resolve within a few days, you want fast relief from its relentless irritation in the meantime. 

 Read on as our American River Urgent Care team discusses why nasal congestion occurs, offers a few ways to attain ease its effects, and explains when you should consider heading to our walk-in clinic in Orangevale, Rancho Cordova California, and. for expert care.  

Your nasal congestion response is explained

Nasal congestion is a common complaint that affects over one in 10 Americans (12%) at any given time. Why? Your nose is a primary entry point for airborne (or finger-transferred) foreign intruders and irritants. 

Your nasal passage is lined with hair and cilia (tiny hair-like structures) designed to trap any dirt, germs, or allergens that enter your nose. When your body’s first line of defense—sneezing and nose blowing—doesn’t eject these intruders, your immune system switches to its next line of defense: congestion, or nasal inflammation and mucus production. 

Congestion occurs when lingering foreign invaders irritate sensitive tissues that line your nasal passage, causing them to become swollen. This inflammation response prompts your immune system to flood your nose with mucus in an effort to rid your body of the offending intruders — and you wind up feeling stuffy and congested. 

Why is my nose suddenly so stuffed up?

It seemed to come on quickly, and now you have a full, blocked nose that makes breathing hard. Whether your nose is runny or stubbornly stuffy, you may also feel facial fullness or head pressure that makes you wonder what you’re dealing with.   

Nasal congestion can happen for many reasons, all of which fall into one of two categories:

Allergic rhinitis

Airborne allergens like pollen, mold, pet dander, and dust mites are frequent congestion triggers. Allergic rhinitis congestion may be year-round if the allergen is within your home environment (i.e., dust), or it may be mostly seasonal, flaring in the fall and spring. 

Nonallergic rhinitis 

Nasal inflammation and mucus production can also happen for various nonallergic reasons—most commonly from an infection with the common cold virus. A stuffy nose can also occur following exposure to smoke, paint fumes, and spicy foods. 

Sometimes, nasal congestion is related to stress, hormonal changes, enlarged adenoids, or taking certain blood pressure or pain medications. 

Four ways to ease bothersome congestion 

While acute nasal congestion usually resolves on its own within a few days, you want to breathe easier in the meantime. The first step? Having an idea of what’s causing it, you can aim for more targeted relief. The following strategies are a good place to start:

1. Calm an allergic reaction

When you’re fairly confident that your stuffy nose results from environmental allergies, limiting your exposure to the problematic substance is the first step in easing your congestion. 

An antihistamine medication can ease allergy-related nasal inflammation and restore easier breathing; if your nose is blocked, a decongestant nasal spray may provide more immediate relief.  

2. Moisten your nasal passages

Dry air worsens most cases of nasal congestion, but moist air has the opposite effect. Even if your environment isn’t excessively dry, adding moisture to the air can ease your congestion and make you feel better. This can be as simple as running a humidifier in your living area and/or bedroom. 

You can also “steam out” nasal congestion by taking a hot shower for 10-20 minutes or positioning your face a few feet above a bowl of hot water to breathe in the steam. 

3. Up your intake of fluids 

Mucus is largely made of water, and when your nasal passage produces more of this sticky substance, you need to increase your fluid intake. Indeed, dehydration can increase stuffiness by making mucus stickier, less fluid, and less likely to flow.    

Besides keeping you hydrated, drinking plenty of fluids helps thin your mucus, helping it flow more freely. Water is the best choice for hydration, but warm fluids like tea with honey and clear broth can help loosen and thin nasal mucus as they soothe your throat (which may be irritated from post-nasal drip). 

4. Irrigate your sinuses

A nasal irrigation treatment can help you breathe better for stubborn congestion that has infiltrated your sinuses. This method uses an irrigation device—such as a squeezable bulb or a neti pot—to flush your nasal passages with saline irrigation solution.

Saline nasal irrigations flush out mucus and allergens to soothe nasal passages. Always use distilled water to make your saline irrigation solution, as it’s free of potentially harmful bacteria and contaminants. You can also use an OTC saline nasal spray.   

When to seek expert care for a stuffy nose 

Most cases of nasal congestion resolve in a few days. Come see us if yours sticks around longer than a week—especially if it’s getting worse or not getting any better. L lingering nasal congestion can lead to sinusitis, an ear infection, or nasal polyps without proper care. 

If you need relief from prolonged nasal congestion, stop by our walk-in clinic in Orangevale, California, today. You can also call or click online to schedule a visit at your convenience. 

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