Healthcare Library

Nasal congestion

You've got that feeling again: Your nose is stuffy, your head seems heavy, and your sinuses feel swollen and on fire. You once again, have Nasal Congestion. Many people think that their nose gets congested from too much thick mucus. But, usually, your nose gets stuffy when the tissues lining it become swollen. The swelling is from inflamed blood vessels. Your nose can become stuffy because of a cold, the flu, and allergies. Sometimes the congestion goes away in a week, sometimes you have it nearly every day or during certain times a year, especially if you're allergic or sensitive to something like pollen, tobacco smoke, or pet dander. If your baby is congested, you can make your own saline drops, adding a quarter teaspoon of salt to a half-cup of lukewarm water. Lay your child on his or her back, put a rolled up towel beneath their shoulders, and put two or three drops into each nostril. After 30 seconds, turn the child on their belly to help the fluids drain. You can also use an infant nasal bulb, called an aspirator, to help remove some of the mucous in their nose. Other tips for helping kids include raising the head of your child's bed; Have your child drink plenty of fluids; Use a cool-mist vaporizer in your child's room at night; DO NOT use over-the-counter cough and cold medicines for any child under the age of 6. They don't help much anyway, and they can cause serious health problems in kids. Older kids and adults can take over-the-counter medicines to help relieve their stuff nose. Oral decongestants can shrink the blood vessels throughout the body, including in the lining of your nose. Nasal decongestants are more targeted, but shouldn't be used more than 3 days in a row. Antihistamines may reduce the amount of mucus in your nose. But these medicines don't treat the problem, just the symptoms. You can also try gentler solutions, like a Neti pot, saline irrigation, saline nasal drops, using a vaporizer or humidifier when you sleep, and drinking plenty of fluids such as hot tea or chicken soup. A stuffy nose will usually go away in about a week. But if it doesn't, or you get congested at certain times of year or when you're around pets or smokers, your doctor can help you find out if you have allergies and get you the right treatment to make any allergies less of an annoyance.

Nasal congestion

Review Date: 5/20/2019

Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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