Nasal congestion is known as a blocked nose or stuffy nose. This happens when an upper respiratory tract infection (like colds, the flu or sinusitis) or allergic reaction cause the nasal cavity to swell and mucus to build, making it tougher to breathe. Congestion includes a feeling of facial pain and pressure, frontal headaches, nasal congestion with discharge and occasional difficulty with smelling scents.
How to Get Rid of Nasal Congestion
Nasal congestion can be more than merely annoying. It is important to treat it immediately or it can cause other problems, such as ear infections and restless sleep. Luckily, there are many ways to get rid of nasal congestion and increase comfort when a cold or allergy hits.
1. Steam Treatment
Steam treatments have been a staple of sick, congested people the world over for centuries. Warm and moist steam is useful in clearing out blocked nasal passages and relieving sinus pressure.
- Fill a one-quart pot with water. Boil the water on the stove for a minute or two or until it is steaming vigorously.
- Then remove the pot from the heat and place on a heat resistant mat on a table.
- Drape a large, clean cotton towel over your head and then place your head over the steaming pot.
- Close your eyes and keep your face away from the water so that you don’t burn yourself.
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth for five counts. Then reduce the inhales and exhales to two counts.
- Do this for 10 minutes or for as long as the water is still steaming. Try to blow your nose during and after the treatment.
If you can’t breathe in through your nose at first, breathe in through your mouth.
Related Video: Steaming to Alleviate Nasal Congestion
2. Salt Water
Salt water can serve as unmedicated saline solution. In order to make your own nasal saline solution, add one teaspoon of salt to one cup of water, stirring to dissolve. Using a bulb syringe purchased at the drugstore, irrigate your nostrils with this homemade saline solution to help loosen and liquify your nasal secretions and relieve congestion. Try doing two sprays in each nostril.
- Use water that is distilled, sterile, or already boiled and cooled. Always rinse the instrument after each use and let air dry before next use.
3. Hot Shower
Taking a hot shower works very similarly to the steam treatments. The warm steam will pass through your lungs and into your nasal passage, loosening up mucus and relieving congestion. Try blowing your nose naturally. The heat and steam will help moisten and liquify the secretions in the sinuses to better facilitate their evacuation.
4. Neti Pot
A neti pot is miniature tea pot-shaped device that has become popular and gained support from the medical community as a way of cleansing your sinus passages. It helps in thinning out mucus and flushing it out of the nasal passage. The neti pot works by flooding warm water through one nostril and out the other. You simply fill it with warm water and tilt your head to allow the water to pour into your right nostril and drain out the left. Then, do the other side. Always rinse the neti pot after each use.
In some parts of the world, water may be contaminated with naegleria fowleri, an amoeba that, if inhaled through the nose, can cause a usually fatal brain infection. This can be avoided by using water that is distilled, sterile, or already boiled and cooled.
Related Video: How to Use a Neti Pot
5. Drink Water
For quick relief from nasal congestion, drink at least 8 cups of water. This will thin out your mucus and can help prevent sinuses blockages, and thereby relieve pressure.
Thinned out mucus is much more likely to drain. Whenever you feel the beginnings of sinus pressure, make a concerted effort to stay hydrated.
6. Eat Spicy Foods
Spicy foods thin out mucus and clear up congestion, albeit mostly temporarily. Hot salsa, wasabi, peppers, hot wings, horseradish, and other spicy foods can get your nasal secretions flowing and thereby help relieve the pressure in your sinuses. The nose is best blown when the secretions are moist and fluid. That is why remedies that generate this are effective.
A humidifier produces steam and moist air. To help improve the health of your sinuses, place a humidifier in your bedroom while you sleep. Humidifiers are recommended as treatment for nasal congestion because dry air irritates the membranes in the sinus, causing the symptoms to be more severe. Therefore, wet air is recommended by many doctors.
- Humidifiers are especially good during the wintertime because the air in most homes is very dry due to central heating.
If you don’t have, or don’t want to buy, an actual humidifier, you can build a rudimentary one yourself using commonplace items around your home. Boil enough water to fit in a large pan, remove from the heat, and place the hot water in a safe part of your room. The steam coming from the water will humidify the room. Repeat as necessary.
8. Massage Your Sinuses
You can relieve nasal congestion by massaging with your fingers. Apply gentle pressure using your index and middle fingers, rotating in a circular motion over the forehead (frontal sinus) and the bridge of your nose and behind your eyes (orbital sinus) as well as under the eyes (maxillary sinus). Do this for several minutes and then blow your nose right after.
Finally, take your thumbs and place them on either cheek bone. Massage your cheekbone in outward circles using your thumbs. Do this for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat the massage again, or until your sinuses are adequately relieved.
Related Video: Self-Massage to Relieve Sinus Pressure
9. Black Pepper
Black pepper can be highly beneficial for clearing nasal congestion and blocked sinuses. It can induce sneezing thus getting rid of the mucus and allergens in your sinuses.
- Take a little black pepper in your palm and add three drops of sesame oil in it.
- Dip your finger in the mixture and apply it under your nose.
- Breathe in the strong aroma. It might make you sneeze, so do not suppress it.
- Repeat as needed.
10. Natural Antihistamines
Try these natural antihistamines to get rid of nasal congestion.
- Coldsfoot may be effective as a natural antihistamine. Europeans have a long history of using the plant to cure skin conditions. The leaves can either be ground up into a paste or coldsfoot extract can be ingested in pill form.
- Stinging nettle. Some doctors recommend taking a freeze-dried preparation of stinging nettle, which is known for its ability to reduce the amount of histamine the body produces.
- Basil may also work as a natural antihistamine. Heat a couple sprigs of basil leaves up under some steam and breathe steam in. Basil may help reassure the body that the histamines it’s sending out can be reduced.
11. Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus oil helps loosen mucus and clear the sinuses. It has a lot of anti inflammatory properties that can help relieve nasal congestion.
- Fill the bathtub with warm water and add ten drops of eucalyptus oil. Rest in the bathtub until your nasal passages are clear and breathing becomes easier.
- You can also use rosemary oil or tea tree oil.
Medical Solutions for Nasal Congestion
You can also use medications to get rid of nasal congestion. Consult your doctor before using any medications and always be sure to follow any instructions on the label.
New guidelines have suggested that intranasal steroids should be the first line of treatment for nasal congestion. Intranasal steroids, such as fluticasone (Flonase) and triamcinolone (Nasacort), which is now available over-the-counter, work by reducing inflammation in the nose.
Nasal steroid spray has the benefit of having no major side effects like those caused by many oral decongestants and antihistamines, such as drowsiness and dry mouth. Note, however, that it takes a few days for the steroid to build up to its full effect; this means that you will not experience immediate relief.
Potential side effects include indigestion, nausea, and headaches. If you’re using Flonase, the typical dosage is one spray per nostril twice daily. There are also other nasal steroids available with a prescription, such as mometasone Furoate (Nasonex).
Using an over-the-counter decongestant can help relieve sinus pressure by unblocking the nasal passages. You can get them in the form of nasal sprays or as oral medication and they can be purchased at most pharmacies.
Nasal decongestant sprays should not be used for more than 3 days at a time. Longer term use has been linked to “rebound” swelling of the nasal passages. Oral decongestants, such as Sudafed or Bronkaid pills, however, can be used for up to two weeks without supervision by a physician. While the “rebound” swelling is less common with oral decongestants, some people experience palpitations or a rise in blood pressure.
Avoid nasal sprays containing zinc. These have been linked to permanent loss of the sense of smell.
Some people find antihistamines useful, particularly in longer-lasting occurrences of sinus infections, because they can ease nasal congestion. Oral antihistamines include diphenhydramine (Benadryl), cetirizine (Zyrtec) and Loratadine (Claritin). Note, however, that some older antihistamines can have serious side effects for the sinuses, including the drying up of the mucous membranes of the nasal tissue and thickening the secretions, and can also cause drowsiness.
- Take 10 mg of Zyrtec once daily. Children older than six years of age may take this as well, in doses of 5-10 mg per day, depending on weight. Consult the instructions. This medication may cause some drowsiness.
- Take 25 milligrams of Benadryl every eight hours as needed for congestion. This drug may prove difficult to tolerate due to its side effects of drowsiness and “fogginess.”
- Take 10 mg of Claritin once daily. Second generation antihistamines such as this one have a much improved side effect profile and are less likely to cause drowsiness.
- You could also try a prescription antihistamine nasal spray such as azelastine (Astelin, Astepro) or olopatadine hydrochloride (Patanase).
- Stay away from chlorinated water. The chlorine in pools, for example, can irritate mucus membranes, making your congestion even worse.
- Don’t eat dairy products or chocolate, both of which cause mucus buildup.
- See your doctor if your nasal secretions change in color or texture or if you observe a low-grade fever or headache. This may indicate a sinus infection that requires antibiotics to treat the infection.
- If the sinus congestion doesn’t go away within 10 days after using the above treatments, see your doctor. It could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as allergies.