Nasal congestion (the famous "stuffy nose") happens when tissues and blood vessels in the nasal passages and sinuses become inflamed due to excess fluid/mucus. The problem can be accompanied by discharge and has several causes, such as infections (cold, flu, sinusitis), allergies (pollen, food, chemicals) and environmental irritants (cigarette smoke, dust, pollution), and it is ideal to know fight it quickly to avoid coughing and not having to blow your nose all the time.
Part 1 of 2: Using Natural Methods to Solve the Problem
Step 1. Use a handkerchief to gently blow your nose
While it doesn't always solve the problem completely, this is the quickest and easiest way to reduce nasal congestion and the best way to start. If possible, combine this habit with some of the techniques listed below.
- Be careful when blowing your nose so that you don't end up damaging the delicate tissues of the sinus and/or breaking a small blood vessel.
- Only use soft tissues to blow your nose, as their material prevents other problems, such as irritation, redness and abrasions in the region.
- If you prefer, change the handkerchief for a sink. Lean over, cover one nostril at a time, and blow; then wash the area.
Step 2. Use steam therapy
Breathing in environments with warm water vapor can be a quick and powerful way to decongest the nose, as it leaves the fluid and mucus looser in the nasal passages and facilitates its exit through the nostril. Breathe in the steam between two and four times a day - but don't use too hot steam as it can burn your skin and make the problem worse.
- Boil water in an electric kettle and approach it with a towel over your head. Lean so that the steam produced reaches your face and try to breathe deeply through your nose for about 5-10 minutes.
- If you prefer, take a long, hot bath and breathe in the warm moisture, even if it's congested - with your face away from the flow of water. After ten minutes, blow your nose a few times.
- Place a warm, steamed washcloth over your face for a few minutes (or until the material dries) to alleviate the problem.
- While this is a slower alternative, you can also put a humidifier in your room at night to decongest your nasal passages, as healthy mucus membranes should be moist.
Step 3. Spray some warm saline solution into the nose
This is one more way to loosen the fluid and mucus in the sinus. The substance acts as a humidifier, reaching the dry tissues in the nasal passages. Also, salt can help eliminate viruses or bacteria that are causing the problem. To purchase the product, go to a market or do it at home.
- Boil distilled water and add a little salt during the process (about a teaspoon for every 250 ml and, if possible, a pinch of baking soda). Place the final product in a clean, empty spray bottle.
- With your head tilted back, spray and inhale the solution into your nostrils. At this time, it's normal to feel like sneezing.
- Spray the solution twice into each nostril and repeat the process three to five times a day until the nose clears.
- If you also have a sore throat, spray the solution down your throat.
Step 4. Buy a Neti Pot to irrigate your nose
The pot - a ceramic or plastic object used in Ayuverda (a type of ancient Indian medicine) and similar to Aladdin's magic lamp - is one of the most effective and traditional alternatives to fight congestion. Fill it with saline solution (see method above) and take the product to the nose to sanitize the nasal passages.
- After filling the pot with the warm solution, tilt the head 45 degrees to the side over a sink and pour the contents into the upper nostril. Take it easy and wait for the solution to come out of the other nostril.
- Spit out any residue of the solution into your throat. Then blow your nose and repeat the process with the other nostril.
- Nasal irrigation with the Neti pot three to five times a day, cleaning the nose carefully with each use.
- The pot has been used for centuries in India and Asia, but it already has some adherents in the West. Try to find it on the internet or in drugstores.
- Only use filtered or distilled water to decongest. If you have to use tap water, boil it or filter it beforehand.
Step 5. Use herbal oils
Many oils, extracts and ointments have strong decongestant properties and can be used with other methods (humidifiers and kettles) or alone (placed directly over the nose and nostrils). Mint, eucalyptus, camphor and tea tree oil are common examples, and there are specific mixtures for the sinuses. Some also have numbing and antiseptic properties.
- Add 3-4 drops of concentrated menthol, eucalyptus or camphor oil to the humidifier for a few hours' effect. The closer you get to the steam, the better the effect will be.
- Rosemary, mint and crabgrass are other products widely used in aromatherapy and that can resolve nasal congestion.
Part 2 of 2: Using fast-acting medications
Step 1. Take an over-the-counter decongestant
In general, these products (Rinosoro and the like, sold at any drugstore and with quick effect, like an hour) constrict the blood vessels that make the nose stuffy. They can take the form of a pill or spray and should only be used for a short time (between three and five days).
- Read the package insert carefully to find the correct dosage and, if in doubt, consult a doctor or pharmacist.
- Decongestants can also dry out mucus membranes in the nasal passages and sinuses; therefore, drink plenty of water (2 liters a day).
- These medications can have side effects such as insomnia (difficulty falling asleep), increased blood pressure, and headaches and sinus headaches.
Step 2. If possible, also take an over-the-counter antihistamine
These medications, also sold in pill or spray form, are best used to treat congestion caused by allergies. They block the chemical histamine (produced in excess during allergic reactions), which in turn inflames the tissues in the nasal passages and irritates the area. Also, some of its formulas have side effects, such as drowsiness.
- Do not drive or operate heavy machinery under the influence of antihistamines that make you drowsy, such as brompheniramine, chlorpheniramine, clemastine or diphenhydramine.
- If you want to avoid drowsiness, take desloratadine, fexofenadine or loratadine.
- For optimal results, take the antihistamine before the nasal congestion caused by the allergy develops. The sooner the better!
Step 3. Talk to your doctor about steroids in spray form
Due to their strong anti-inflammatory properties, they can be very effective and quick to fight congestion. However, some can only be taken with a doctor's prescription, while others are over-the-counter. Corticosteroid sprays are particularly useful in treating allergic reactions (congestion, discharge, irritation, sneezing) and nasal polyps (benign tumors in the nasal passages that cause frequent congestion).
- Corticosteroid sprays are most effective if used daily, continuously, for a specified number of days (one or two weeks).
- Nasal steroid sprays are safe for all adults, but not all are recommended for children; consult the doctor beforehand.
- Corticosteroids can have several side effects, such as: drying the nasal passages, causing burning, pain, sneezing, bleeding, irritation in the throat and headaches, in addition to making the patient more prone to sinus infections.
- Nasal congestion can get worse when lying down. Try to sit with your back straight or your head elevated.
- Many drugstores sell patches for the bridge of the nose that supposedly help to expand the nostrils, making breathing easier.
- If you're not sure what caused your nasal congestion, see your doctor for blood tests, allergy tests, saliva and throat tests, and a sinus X-ray to get an accurate diagnosis.
- Many anti-allergy and over-the-counter flu remedies have more than one agent; read the package insert carefully.
- Consult a physician if nasal congestion is accompanied by symptoms such as high fever, sore throat or ear, coughs for more than a week, greenish-yellow nasal discharge, and/or severe headaches.