We’ve all been there. It could be a cold, an allergy, or an infection. Or it could be a reaction to cigarette smoke or car exhaust. Whatever the reason, your head, and nasal passages abruptly become clogged with gross mucus, making it hard to breathe.

Though basically harmless, a stuffy nose can become a serious nuisance making it hard to sleep at night or to get through the workday.

Though basically harmless, a stuffy nose can become a serious nuisance making it hard to sleep at night or to get through the workday.

As wet and sniffly as you feel, it is not the mucus in your nose which is causing your discomfort. Rather, it is inflammation of the sinuses. Your nervous system reacts to the irritation by increasing blood flow to your sinuses and flushing them out with mucus.

But the good news is that there are many trusted methods to relieve a stuffy nose. And some of these methods don’t even require medication. Here are 7 ways to clear that stuffy nose and breathe comfortably again.

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1. Try a Humidifier

Adding moisture to the air brings many benefits to congestion sufferers. It has the effect of thinning mucus, making breathing easier. It soothes irritation in the sinuses and also helps counteract the dehydration which a bad cold can bring.

Besides treating nasal congestion, a humidifier can help relieve other ills such as dry skin, irritated vocal cords, and frequent nosebleeds.

There are a number of varieties of humidifiers you can use, such as warm-mist or cool-mist. Both of these are equally effective, but keep in mind that warm-mist humidifiers have been known to cause burns, especially to young children.

This humidifier is a great option for home use to clear a stuffy nose.
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There are several types of humidifiers. You might consider a central humidifier as an effective (but expensive) way to add humidity to your entire home. Or you may choose a more affordable evaporator model, which blows moisture through a filter. This kind of humidifier may only be used in one room at a time.

Remember to clean your humidifier regularly, using the cleaning instructions that came with it. This will eliminate the growth of harmful bacteria and mold.

Another way to clean your humidifier: simply wipe it down with a solution made of one part bleach and nine parts water.

2. Use a Saline Solution

A nasal irrigation kit (such as the popular neti pot) can be used to soften and loosen mucus or even to wash it out. It removes elements that are causing inflammation and improves your respiratory system’s ability to self-clean. For that reason, it is often prescribed by doctors to patients suffering from sinus infections.

A neti pot looks like a tiny teapot. It can be filled with purchased saline solution or with your own saline solution made at home. Just mix a teaspoon of baking soda with three teaspoons of salt and store it in an airtight container. When you’re ready to use it, all you have to do is add about eight ounces of lukewarm water. It should be distilled water; but you can also boil it ahead of time to sterilize it.

This saline solution (for inhalation) is an option for home use.
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To use the neti pot, just stand over a sink with the spout in one nostril. Then tilt it until water begins entering one nostril and coming out of the other. Continue tilting for about one minute, and then do the same thing with the other side.

Use this system twice a day to find quick relief from your stuffy nose.

3. Stay Hydrated

It’s important to drink plenty of fluids when you’re suffering from nasal congestion. That’s because liquid has the effect of thinning the mucus in your nasal passages, making it easier to clear them out and reduce pressure in your sinuses. Your body is losing water as it drains and flushes away mucus, which can lead to dehydration.

In addition, if you are taking any over-the-counter cold medicine, it has the effect of drying out your body.

So keep the liquids coming! Drink water, juice and/or hot tea: whatever your preference is, just as long as you keep the liquid flowing. If you have a sore throat, warm liquids like tea or soup can provide relief.

Your mother knew what she was doing when she made hot chicken soup when you had a cold: the hot broth helps loosen mucus and phlegm, and the taste is about as comforting as it gets. We now know that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory effects that make your cold symptoms less severe.

4. Take an Over-the-Counter Decongestant

Over-the-counter medication can help reduce swelling and inflammation, making cold symptoms more bearable. Decongestant medications are available as nasal spray or in pill form.

Some of the most common products for treating congestions are Sinex, Afrin, Sudogest or Sudafed. Check the label to see if the medication contains phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine as these are the most effective substances to treat nasal congestion.

In some cases, these medications may be kept behind the counter so you may have to ask your pharmacist to get them for you. Be careful with these medications; they should be used only as directed on the label and never for longer than three days. Using decongestant medication improperly or excessively may actually make your symptoms worse.

If your symptoms are caused by a cold, avoid allergy medication or antibiotics unless indicated by your doctor.

It’s best to check with your doctor before trying new over-the-counter medications.
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5. Use a Compress

Both warm and cold compresses are often used to reduce nasal congestion and relieve cold symptoms. A warm compress is especially helpful in relieving pain and opening up nasal passages.

If you don’t have these on hand, no worries. You can easily create them from items you have around the house.

A bag of frozen vegetables works well as a ready-made cold pack. For a hot compress, simply heat a wet washcloth in the microwave for about a minute. Then wring it out and place it over your forehead and nose. Just remember to check how hot it is before laying it across your face. Do this as many times as necessary.

Some find the greatest relief in alternating hot and cold compresses. To do this, lie down with a warm compress across your face for three minutes. Then swap it out for a cold compress for 30 seconds. Repeat this process two or three times. For best results, do this several times a day.

6. Take a Steamy Shower

Steam is a tried-and-true method of finding relief from nasal congestion. It works by easing swelling and inflammation in the nasal passages and by thinning and loosening mucus so that it drains better. While this won’t cure an infection or cold, it will help you feel better for a while. A warm, steamy shower can bring immediate (although temporary) relief from your symptoms.

If you don’t want to take a shower, you can still enjoy the benefits of steam. Simply turn the hot water on in your sink and lean over it with a towel draped over your head. Breathe deeply as the steam builds. But be careful that it doesn’t get hot enough to cause burns. Do this three or four times a day and you’ll feel much better.

Even simply breathing in the steam from a hot cup of tea can bring comfort.

7. Try Herbal Remedies

Menthol is an active ingredient in most chest rubs and cough drops; it’s also the main ingredient in peppermint oil. It works by stimulating the nerves in your nose, making you feel like more air is getting through your nasal passages. This is a great way to get some fast, short-term relief.

Menthol lozenges are readily available over the counter; they provide relief from other cold symptoms, such as a sore throat, without any side effects. Besides using mentholated products, you can also try making some peppermint tea. This is available in the store or you can make your own by steeping a teaspoon of dried peppermint in a cup of boiling water for ten minutes.

The essential oil is pure and natural with no additives and no fillers.
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Eucalyptus oil is another natural remedy which works as a decongestant by loosening the phlegm in your lungs. It also kills germs around your nasal passages. To use it, add it to hot water when treating your symptoms with steam. You can even find relief by sleeping next to tissue paper with eucalyptus oil on it.

Garlic cloves have also been shown effective in the treatment of nasal congestion. For fast relief, have 2-3 garlic cloves at least twice a day. If you can’t quite stomach the idea of consuming a garlic clove whole, crush them and put them in boiling water for a soup.

Medical Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your physician with any questions that you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read in this article. Please consult with your physician before changing or adding any foods or supplements to your diet. 

Final Thoughts

As common as it is, a stuffy nose can cause real discomfort and inhibit your life in small and large ways. Monitor nasal congestion along with other symptoms. Call your doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Symptoms that last for 10 days or more
  • A fever over 100.6℉
  • Yellow, green, or gray nasal discharge accompanied by sinus pain
  • Blood in your mucus

But for most cases of stuffy nose, these remedies can provide short-term comfort and relief and facilitate quick healing so you can get back to normal as quickly as possible.

References

The following are the sources that were used while doing research for this article: