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Stuffy Noses: Causes, Symptoms and Remedies

14 Aug 2018

Inflammation and swelling of nasal mucus membranes, blood vessels and surrounding tissues cause nasal congestion. Mucus membrane swelling is mostly to blame for that plugged-up feeling, but thick mucus stuck in your restricted nasal passages does not help either. 

Symptoms & Causes of a Stuffy Nose

Just a few days ago, you had no complaints — you were feeling fine and ready to go. But then, you woke up with a stuffy nose: that unmistakable sensation that has you wondering exactly what’s going on inside your body. Have you caught a cold? Could it be the flu? Maybe it’s just your allergies acting up again. Even though nasal congestion is a common symptom of numerous aliments, chances are you can figure out what’s behind your stuffy nose simply by taking stock of your other symptoms: 

  1. Common cold: You may think that you have a stuffy nose because your body is producing more mucus, but that’s only partly true. Nasal congestion happens when the tissues in your nose become swollen because of inflamed blood vessels. The swelling of the tissues restricts the nasal passages and limit the flow of air. It’s one of the multiple phases of a common cold. There are more than 200 viruses that can cause a cold, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which may help explain why most adults come down with two to three colds each year. Common cold symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, postnasal drip, a sore throat, mild fever, chest congestion and coughing. Although you may feel more fatigued than usual, you rarely would run a high fever, have a headache or experience body aches.
  2. Influenza (the flu): The dreaded flu; once you’ve had it, it’s the last thing you’ll ever want to have again. That’s because the flu typically comes with a high fever that lasts for days, a headache and general aches and pains that can be quite severe, as well as the kind of fatigue that can leave you feeling weak for up to three weeks. Although people with the flu don’t always have significant nasal congestion, having some amount of congestion is relatively common. You may also experience a sore throat, a cough, chest congestion, runny nose, and sneezing. A cold may interfere with your day-to-day life, but the flu is far more likely to knock you off your feet for a while.
  3. Allergies: It’s easy to see why it can be hard to distinguish between having a cold and dealing with allergies, as the two have several symptoms. Nasal congestion, with or without a runny nose, is part of most airborne allergies. Sneezing is too, and you may also experience a sore throat and a cough. You know you have allergies, however, when your cold-like symptoms also come with wheezing and watery or itchy eyes. Another major difference between having a cold and dealing with allergies is that a cold takes a few days to develop, while the stuffy nose of an allergic reaction begins shortly after you’ve been exposed to an allergen. 

At-Home Stuffy Nose Remedy Ideas

Whenever you’re feeling under the weather, it’s important to prioritize rest so your immune system is at its best. And no matter what’s causing your stuffy nose, you can find relief by doing any or all of the following: 

  1. Drink plenty of fluids to thin your mucus.
  2. Apply a warm, moist cloth across your nose to loosen mucus.
  3. Run a humidifier or vaporizer as you sleep at night to help get your mucus flowing. Sitting in a steamy bathroom a few times each day will have a similar effect.
  4. If you’re fighting an infection, consult your doctor. Your doctor may recommend a nasal decongestant to help dry and shrink your nasal passages.
  5. If you have allergies, an antihistamine may help alleviate your symptoms. 

How Nasal Decongestants Work for Stuffy Noses

Although it feels like your nose is packed with mucus when it’s congested, that’s not exactly the case. Nasal congestion happens when your nasal tissues become swollen because the blood vessels inside your nose are inflamed. Add to that the excess mucus your body produces in response to an infection or allergen, and the stage is set for a blocked, stuffed-up nose. Nasal decongestants are a type of medicine that can give you quick, temporary relief. They work by shrinking the inflamed blood vessels inside your nose, which helps mucus flow, reduces pressure and makes it easier to breathe. 

Types of Nasal Decongestants and Proper Use

Over-the-Counter nasal decongestants are available in a variety of forms, including nasal sprays, tablets, capsules, liquids and even flavored powders that dissolve in hot water. Products that contain only nasal decongestant medication are designed to relieve just one symptom: nasal congestion. Multi-symptom medications that help with nasal congestion may also contain pain relievers, fever reducers, cough suppressants or expectorants. When choosing a product, it’s important to avoid those that contain more ingredients than you need. If nasal congestion is your only symptom, Mucinex® Sinus-Max® Severe Nasal Congestion Relief Clear & Cool delivers the relief you need. There’s a range of Mucinex® Sinus-Max® products to explore for nasal congestion relief, depending on what other symptoms may or may not be experienced concurrently, such as sinus headache and pressure. For those who prefer a pill over a spray, Maximum Strength Mucinex® D tablets* can also provide nasal and chest congestion relief. 

To get the most benefit from a nasal decongestant, follow these simple steps: 

  1. Get your doctor’s approval if you have any health conditions or are taking other medications because nasal decongestants can interact with certain drugs, including antidepressants.
  2. Choose a product that addresses only the symptoms you have. Those with a single ingredient are specifically made to target nasal congestion.
  3. Follow the medicine’s dosing and timing instructions exactly. If symptoms persist, consult a doctor.
  4. Don’t rely on decongestant nasal sprays for longer than 3 days at a time. Overusing decongestant sprays can actually make your congestion worse.

Support your efforts to reduce nasal congestion by drinking plenty of water to thin your mucus. A warm compress placed over the bridge of your nose can help ease sinus pressure, while getting plenty of rest can help speed your recovery.

*This product is only available behind the counter and with a prescription in Oregon. 

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