What Causes a Stuffy Nose?
A stuffy nose is often caused by two different things: the inflammation or swelling of the blood vessels in the tissues lining the nose and by increased mucus secretions in the nose.1 Most cases go away within a week, but the duration of a stuffy nose depends on what’s causing it.2
Some likely causes of stuffy nose include infections like the common cold, flu or a sinus infection, like sinusitis.1 Going to the doctor to get a physical examination of your nose, ears and throat is the best way to determine what is causing your stuffy nose.1 If you have a stuffy nose but don’t feel sick, it may be caused by another condition or external factor.
Other causes of stuffy noses include allergies (or exposure to dust, pollen or pet dander), airborne irritants like cigarette smoke and fragrances, temperature/humidity changes and pregnancy.1
Can a Stuffy Nose Lead to More Serious Problems?
A stuffy nose can make it more difficult to feed babies.1 For adults and children, stuffy noses are not known to cause anything more serious than discomfort and trouble sleeping.1 While blowing your nose is relatively safe, blowing too hard can lead to other problems, like nose bleeds, popping ears and painful ear infections.3
Nose bleeds are caused when a vessel is exposed to dry air and you add pressure to it by blowing your nose.3 Ear infections are rarely caused by nose blowing, but swelling in the nose causes the connection between the ear and the nose to shut.3 Blowing your nose frequently can also cause redness in the area surrounding your nose, especially if you aren’t using soft, clean tissues.
A dry and sore throat can also be caused from a stuffy nose. Breathing from your nose helps keep moisture in your mouth and throat, but nasal passages that are not clear can make it difficult to breathe from your nose.4 A stuffy nose can make you breathe from your mouth, which can lead to sore throat pain.4
Relieving a Stuffy Nose at Home
Stuffy noses usually go away within a week, but you can find quick ways to manage your congestion while you wait for your nostrils to clear up for good. You can feel instant relief from your stuffy nose by applying a warm, moist washcloth to your face several times a day as needed.2
When applying a warm washcloth, make sure the fabric is not too hot so that you don’t burn your face. Inhaling steam 2 to 4 times a day or having a humidifier in your home can also help with your stuffy nose.2 An easy way to breathe in some steam is to sit in the bathroom while running a hot shower.
Humidifiers are a great way to relieve stuffy noses and other respiratory problems, but be sure to always check the humidity levels and keep your humidifier clean.5 The way you sleep can also affect your stuffy nose. Stuffy noses can get worse if you lay down, so try to keep your head slightly elevated when you sleep.2
Remedies for Relieving a Stuffy Nose
A simple remedy to unplugging your nose is to try a nasal wash.2 You can purchase a saline spray or make your own by mixing 1 cup of warm water with ½ teaspoon of salt and a pinch of baking soda.2 Drinking plenty of fluids like water, hot tea or soup can also help clear your nose and keep you hydrated.2
If your stuffy nose is caused by allergies, remove yourself from the source of the allergy and use antihistamines or nasal sprays to relieve congestion.2 Other cases can be relieved with nasal and science decongestants, which are drugs that shrink and dry up your nasal passages to help stuffy noses.2
Look for over-the-counter decongestants, like Theraflu Sinus & Pain Hot Liquid Powder, to get relief from your stuffy nose. Theraflu Sinus & Pain Hot Liquid Powder contains phenylephrine hydrochloride and pheniramine maleate, which are two proven ingredients that can help clear your stuffy nose.
Having a stuffy nose can be annoying, but with the proper care and treatment you can go back to breathing freely again. To learn about other cold and flu symptoms, visit the Theraflu Symptoms Hub.
1. Nasal Congestion. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/17980-nasal-congestion Accessed 10/26/2021.
2. Stuffy or runny nose – adult. Mount Sinai. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/symptoms/stuffy-or-runny-nose-adult Accessed 10/26/2021.
3. Three risks of blowing your nose too hard. The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. https://wexnermedical.osu.edu/blog/3-risks-of-blowing-your-nose-too-hard Accessed 10/26/2021.
4. Can You Get a Sore Throat From Sleeping With Your Window Open? Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-get-sore-throat-sleeping-open-window/ Accessed 10/26/2021.
5. Humidifiers: Ease skin, breathing symptoms. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/in-depth/humidifiers/ART-20048021 Accessed 10/26/2021.