Chromic nasal congestion can make a patient very uncomfortable. This article will discuss some of the causes of chronic nasal congestion and point out various treatment and relief options for adults and infants including some easy to use home remedies that works great for a chronic congested nose.
Chronic Nasal Congestion
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A chronic congested nose can lower a patient’s quality of life tremendously. Nobody relishes the idea of having a recurring or permanent obstruction to the flow of air in and out of the nose. Unfortunately this is what chronic nasal congestion patients have to contend with on a daily or almost daily basis.
A congested nose results when mucous membrane lining the nasal passages and sinuses become inflamed and swollen and thus prevent the draining of the sinuses. This causes stuffiness inside the nasal passages and sinuses and is often accompanied by pain.
Whether chronic or not however, it is usually not a condition by itself but a symptom for an underlying condition.
Chronic Nasal Congestion Causes
Although common cold and flu are common causes of nasal congestion, they typically heal in about 7 days or less and are not culprits for chronic cases:
Common causes of chronic nasal congestion include
- Hay fever or other allergies e.g. allergy to dust mites, moulds, pet dander and latex among others
- Enlarged adenoids
- Structural deformities e.g. deviated nasal septum
- Nasal polyps
- Chronic sinus infection
- Vasomotor or non-allergic rhinitis: In medical terms, the term rhinitis is means “stuffy nose”. Vasomotor rhinitis is a non-allergic condition that is notable for chronic nose congestion, sneezing and runny nose. It has been shown to be triggered by variations in temperature and humidity. Irritation of the nose by perfumes, smoke, fumes and strong odors can also trigger vasomotor rhinitis. It may also be a side-effect to given medications such as contraceptive pills.
- Presence of foreign bodies inside the nasal passages
- Tumors of the nasal passages (although rare)
Chronic Nasal Congestion in Children and Infants
Chronic nose congesstion may affect some children beginning from the early stages of infancy. This is not only annoying to such children and their parents, but can also lead to long term complications such as ear infection and hearing problems, and delayed speech development. It can also disrupt a child’s sleeping pattern leading to fatigue.
As the child with a chronic congested nose continues breathing through the mouth for prolonged periods, he/she may be at higher risk of abnormal growth of teeth and facial bone.
Allergies (allergic rhinitis) due to exposure to various environmental allergens such as pollen rank first among the causes of chronic nose congestion in congestion. Blood tests can be carried out to diagnose allergies-triggered chronic nasal congestion in children. Any allergens in your child’s environment and diet then need to be identified and eliminated if long term relief is to be provided.
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In some cases such as where this problem is due to structural deformities e.g. deviated septum or due to enlarged adenoids, surgery may be performed to get rid of the a nose that gets congested
Dry air can also lead to chronic nose congestion in children. This can be corrected by using a humidifier in your bedroom.
Nasal decongestants and nasal steroids are often not advisable for used in relieving of nose congestion in children aged below 2 years. Instead saline nose drops or home-made saline solutions should be used to relieve the symptoms by moisturizing the nasal passages and flushing out dried mucus.
Chronic Nasal Congestion at Night or During Nighttime
As anyone with a nose that gets congested can bear witness, congestion often tends to feel worse during the night. This can interfere with your sleep which can create a vicious cycle if the underlying condition is a cold or flu since it interferes with your sleeping pattern in spite of the face that adequate sleep help in the relief of these ailments.
Chronic nasal congestion at night could be an indication of presence of allergens in your bedroom e.g. moulds, dust mites, pet dander etc. You should consider trying to minimize the level of allergens in your bedroom as much as possible. For dust mites, frequent vacuuming and cleaning of the beddings and bedcovers can help to reduce their numbers. If you have been sharing the bedroom with a pet, it might also help to give up the habit. As sad as this can be for some people, it helps to reduce pet dander which are potential allergens).
Dry air inside your bedroom can also be the trigger for chronic nasal congestion at night. A relative humidity of between 35 and 45 is ideal for sinus health. If the level of humidity is too low in your house, consider using a humidifier to increase the moisture.
You should however guard against raising the level of humidity too high as this can create ideal environment for growth of moulds and fungi. This could have a negative effect by irritating the sinuses, thus increasing congestion. You can decrease the level of humidity using a dehumidifier, using the air conditioner.
Chronic night-time nasal congestion can also be relieved by sleeping with your head elevated below extra pillows, using saline solution (before bedtime), and by using warm compresses.
Chronic Nasal Congestion Treatment
Nasal irrigation with saline solution: According to medicinenet.com, nasal irrigation with a saline solution can help people with chronic sinus symptoms and nasal allergies. It helps to thin the mucus stuffed in your nasal passages and sinuses and to flush out bacteria from the nasal passages.
Nasal irrigation simply involves pouring some saline solution into your nostrils (one at a time) with your head slightly bent over a sink (at 45 degrees) using a Neti pot, a bulb syringe, or a pre-filled container. As the saline solution flow through the nostril and come out through the other nostril, it washes off any mucus and allergens inside the nasal passages. See the picture below for inspiration.
You should keep your mouth open when squirting the saline solution into your nostrils.
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How to prepare a saline solution at home
To a cup of warm water that was previously boiled water, add ¼ tsp of non-iodized salt and one pinch of baking soda then shake thoroughly.
Other treatment options for chronic nose congestion include:
- Antihistamines: these are available over the counter or as prescription medicines. They come in the forms of nasal sprays and pills
- Decongestant nasal sprays: These should not be used for more than 3 days
- Steroid nasal sprays and drops: Also available in pharmacies or on prescription. They work by reducing the inflammation in nasal passages.
- Pain relievers also help to mange pain
Severe Nasal Congestion
Severe nasal congestion can result when a person suffering from a nose that is congested gets exposed to factors that trigger more inflammation and swelling of the mucus lining of the nasal passages.
If it seems to getting more severe rather than improving after adopting the measures we have discussed above, you should consider seeing a doctor.
Severe Nasal Congestion Causes
Over-use of nasal decongestants: One of the most likely causes of severe nasal congestion is overuse of nasal decongestants sprays and drops. These are ironically used to ease the problem but should not be overused. They help to constrict the blood vessels in the mucous lining of the nasal passages and thus alleviate the swelling and inflammation of the nasal passages and sinuses.
When used for more than 3 days however, they worse the swelling and one may be tempted to use them yet again leading to a vicious cycle that manifests in a more severe congestion. Cocaine users who take it by sniffing often experience a similar problem.
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Severe nose congestion can also result from prolonged exposure to environmental allergens such as dust mites, pollen, and moulds.
Severe Nasal Congestion Relief
Antihistamines, decongestant, pain relievers, and steroid nasal sprays and drops offer severe nasal congestion relief. You should however read the instructions for any medication carefully and follow them keenly.
You should also keep in mind that some antihistamines (used for allergy-induced congestions) can make you drowsy and steroid nasal sprays don’t provide immediate relief for nose congestion symptoms; you have to give it some time.
Severe Nasal Congestion Remedies
In addition to the above treatment options, there are other measures that can help you get severe nasal congestion relief including nasal irrigation with saline nasal drops or home-made saline solutions, propping your head up with more pillows as you sleep, drinking lots of fluids, running a humidifier, drinking chicken soup, drinking a little apple cider vinegar, and ginger wine among others. [Read more on home remedies for nose congestion]
When to see a doctor
If a congested nose seems persistent even when most of the measures discussed on this page have been applied, gets worse, or makes you have breathing difficulty, consider seeking the advice of a doctor immediately.