Nasal congestion or “stuffy nose” occurs when nasal and adjacent tissues and blood vessels become swollen with excess fluid, causing a “stuffy” feeling. Nasal congestion may or may not be accompanied by a nasal discharge or “runny nose.”
Nasal congestion usually is just an annoyance for older children and adults. But nasal congestion can be serious in infants, who might have a hard time nursing or breathing as a result.
Nasal congestion can be caused by anything that irritates or inflames the nasal tissues. Infections — such as colds, influenza or sinusitis — allergies and various irritants, such as tobacco smoke, may all cause a runny nose. Some people have a chronically runny nose for no apparent reason — a condition called non-allergic rhinitis or vasomotor rhinitis (VMR).
Less commonly, nasal congestion can be caused by polyps or a tumor.
Until you see your doctor, try these simple steps to relieve symptoms:
- Sniffing and swallowing or gently blowing your nose.
- If the runny nose is a persistent, watery discharge, particularly if accompanied by sneezing and itchy or watery eyes, your symptoms may be allergy-related, and an over-the-counter antihistamine may help. Be sure to follow the label instructions exactly.
- For babies and small children, use a soft, rubber-bulb syringe to gently remove any secretions.
Try these measures to relieve postnasal drip — when excess mucus accumulates in the back of your throat:
- Avoid common irritants such as cigarette smoke and sudden temperature changes.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Use a humidifier.
- Try nasal saline sprays or rinses.