How to Get Rid of a Stuffy Nose: Eight Possible Treatments

Nasal congestion is a very common condition. In fact, most people get a stuffy nose from time to time...


Nasal congestion can develop when the blood vessels inside the nose become inflamed and the nasal tissues swell. Excess mucus drainage may also occur with a stuffy nose.

This article will look at eight possible treatments for a stuffy nose.

Treatments to relieve a stuffy nose

A stuffy nose can make people feel awful. Those who are all stuffed up often want relief quickly so that they can breathe more easily.

Fortunately, there are many treatments for a stuffy nose that range from home remedies to medications.

1. Hit the shower

Taking a hot shower can help decrease nasal congestion. The steam from the shower may help mucus drain from the nose and improve breathing.

Although the benefits of the steam may not last, it will at least provide temporary relief.

2. Try a saline spray

A saline spray may help decrease tissue inflammation in the nose and reduce stuffiness.

Saline-only sprays do not contain medication, so they are usually safe to use during pregnancy. Saline sprays are available over the counter.

3. Flush out your sinuses

There are different devices on the market, such as a neti pot, which can be used to flush the sinuses. Neti pots have been used for hundreds of years to clear the nasal passages of mucus.

People can also use a saline solution to flush the mucus out of each nostril. Distilled or previously boiled water that has cooled should be used to avoid bacteria from tap water entering the nose.

4. Apply a warm compress

A warm compress may decrease sinus congestion and that stuffy feeling in the nose and face.

People can wet a washcloth with very warm water and apply it to the face. They just need to be sure the water is not so hot that it burns the skin.

5. Try eucalyptus oil

Eucalyptus oil is made from the leaves of the eucalyptus tree. The oil has been used for hundreds of years for its healing properties.

Inhaling the oil can decrease inflammation of the nasal lining and make breathing easier. People can place a few drops of the oil in a pot of boiling water and inhale the steam.

6. Take allergy medicine

In some cases, a stuffy nose is due to an allergic reaction. Allergy medications may contain an antihistamine that blocks that reaction.

Users should be sure to read the directions on the package and be aware of side effects. Some allergy medications can cause drowsiness, so driving should be avoided.

7. Use a decongestant

Decongestants may also be an option to decrease nasal congestion. They work by causing the small blood vessels in the nose to narrow. The narrowing decreases swelling of the lining of the nose and reduces stuffiness.

Decongestants are available in pill form and nasal sprays. Nasal sprays may work faster since they do not have to be absorbed by the stomach. Over-the-counter and prescription medications are available.

Anyone with high blood pressure should ask their doctor first if it is safe to take decongestants.

Side effects can include increased heart rate, headache, and dry mouth. Nasal spray decongestants may also cause sneezing and burning inside the nose.

8. Use a humidifier

The added moisture in the air from a cool or warm mist humidifier can thin the mucus in the nose. This makes draining easier. A cool mist may also reduce inflammation of the mucous membranes inside the nose.

It’s important to keep a humidifier clean to prevent bacteria growing. People should always follow the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations.

Causes of a stuffy nose

In many cases, nasal congestion is only a temporary problem. So what causes that stuffed up feeling? Consider some of the following conditions that can lead to a stuffy nose:

Viral infections

The common cold, which is due to a viral infection, is one of the most common causes of a stuffy nose. There are several viruses that can cause a cold, with the rhinovirus being the most common.

In addition to a stuffy nose, a cold may also cause sneezing, sore throat, and cough.

Allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is very common. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 40 to 60 million people in the United States have the condition.

Allergic rhinitis occurs when the body’s immune system overreacts to a substance that is usually not harmful. Common triggers of allergic rhinitis include pollen, dust, and pet dander.

Besides a stuffy nose, symptoms may include sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy eyes. It’s not clear why some people develop allergic rhinitis, but having a family history of allergies is a risk factor.

Occupational rhinitis

Occupational rhinitis is similar to allergic rhinitis. It can develop when someone has a reaction to a substance in their work environment.

Symptoms may include stuffy nose, itchy eyes, and coughing. People who work around chemicals, wood dust, and grain may be at an increased risk of developing occupational rhinitis.

Pregnancy rhinitis

Pregnancy affects many parts of the body, and that can include the nose. During pregnancy, hormones including progesterone and estrogen increase.

The rise in hormones along with increased blood flow can cause swelling of the mucous membranes inside the nose. Symptoms may include stuffy nose and sneezing.

Pregnancy rhinitis can occur at any time during pregnancy. Symptoms usually go away shortly after delivery.

Atrophic rhinitis

Atrophic rhinitis occurs when there is thinning and hardening of the mucous membranes inside the nose. The thinning tissues make it easier for bacteria to grow and lead to an infection. Crusts also may form inside the nose.

The condition is most common in people who have had multiple nose surgeries.

Accompanying symptoms and when to see a doctor

When someone has a stuffy nose, it may be accompanied by a few other symptoms. It’s not uncommon to also have sneezing and a dripping nose. Nasal congestion may also lead to a headache in some people.

Although it can be uncomfortable, a stuffy nose is nothing to worry about in most cases. Still, there may be times when it’s best to see a doctor, such as if symptoms don’t seem to be going away.

The amount of time it takes for symptoms to improve may depend on the cause. According to the Mayo Clinic, most people recover from a cold in about 10 days.

If symptoms continue for more than 10 days, it may be time to see a doctor.

Complications of nasal congestion can develop depending on the cause. If a stuffy nose is due to a viral infection, possible complications include an ear infection, bronchitis, and sinusitis.

Addition symptoms to watch for that may signal something more serious than a stuffy nose include:

  • Green mucus draining from the nose
  • Facial pain
  • Pain in the ear
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Chest tightness

People who develop any of the symptoms above may want to see their doctor to rule out a bacterial infection or any other complication.