7 tips for clearing up a stuffy nose

Although nasal congestion occurs for many reasons, it's most often the result of a cold, the flu or allergies. Whatever the cause, a blocked nose is annoying and prevents you from getting on with your day. Here are seven tips for clearing stuffy sinuses that really work.

7 tips for clearing up a stuffy nose

What happens when you're congested?

During nasal congestion, mucus builds up in inflamed or irritated nasal cavities and blocks the airways.

  • It may be accompanied by excess discharge, such as a runny nose or post-nasal drip down the back of the throat.
  • Nasal congestion may also create painful sinus pressure underneath and behind the eyes.

The colour of mucus is an indication of its cause.

  • Clear discharge accompanied by itchy, watery eyes is a sign of allergies. An over-the-counter antihistamine will help alleviate these symptoms.
  • A yellowish or green colour will indicate presence of bacterial or viral infection.
  • Pink or red discharge is a result of blood in the mucus and may be due to overblowing a runny nose – the constant pressure can break the many tiny blood capillaries that line the tissues of your nose.

Although there are many "remedies" that seem to help alleviate congestion, some may work better for you than others – so don't hesitate to try a few. What are they?

1. Blow it out

Blowing your nose should be the first line of defence.

  • Gently blowing a runny or stuffy nose into a tissue will expel nasal discharge or build-up.
  • Use a nasal bulb syringe or aspirator with infants, but be careful not to draw out discharge too forcefully. Children's noses are much more delicate than adults.

2. Use a humidifier

Use a humidifier or vaporizer. You can also breathe in the steam from a freshly boiled pot of water – just make sure the water isn't scalding hot!

  • Set the pot safely on a counter or table where you can position your face directly over the pot.
  • Drape a towel over your head to capture the steam and breathe normally.
  • Try adding a few drops of tea tree or eucalyptus oil for added relief.

If scalding is a concern because you have small children running around in the house, you can get humidifiers that emit cool moisture into the air. It's also safer for curious pets.

3. Try a nasal rinse

Nasal rinses help to soothe irritated blood vessels in the nasal passages and reduce discharge.

  • Try a saline rinse using a Neti pot, which is a small ceramic or plastic used for nasal irrigation.
  • Flushing the sinus cavity with a saline solution can thin mucus, alleviate congestion and help reduce the pressure of a sinus infection.
  • Create a saline solution with one teaspoon of salt and one pint of sterile lukewarm water.

4. Apply a compress

Although it may sound old-fashioned, applying a warm compress to the face can offer short-term relief.

  • The heat and moisture can help loosen gunky mucus, thus providing temporary relief from symptoms.

5. Keep your head high

Use extra pillows to elevate your head at bedtime.

  • Propping yourself more upright as you sleep helps to prevent mucus from pooling in your sinuses, as gravity helps to draw the mucus down and away.

6. Don't forget to hydrate

Hydration is important for your overall health and it's a good idea to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.

  • Hot teas and broth can help moisten airways and provide temporary relief from congestion. They also provide emotional comfort, which helps with a person's overall feeling of well-being.

7. Eat right

Because milk, meat and soy products encourage mucus production, you may want to avoid dairy products when battling a cold or allergy attack.

  • Spicy foods, including cayenne pepper and ginger, have been found effective at loosening mucus.

Ultimately, a well-balanced diet that contains lots of vitamin C-rich foods can help reduce mucus production altogether.

Once you get rid of a cold or flu, your symptoms should clear up as well. If you have any concerns or your stuffy nose doesn't clear up, see your doctor for professional advice.

N.B.: Always consult a qualified healthcare provider before starting any exercise program, changing your diet or taking supplements of any kind. The general information in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, instruction or treatment.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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