Ughh... I have a stuffy nose!

A blocked or stuffy nose is one of the most irritating things that we can experience. Not being able to breathe normally or comfortably affects how we live our everyday lives.

Nasal congestion can have many causes: allergies, sinus infections (sinusitis), upper respiratory infections, the common cold or flu, or rhinitis. Even the structure of your nose can cause your nasal passages to get blocked up -- this condition is called a deviated septum.

There are many ways of treating a stuffy nose: antihistamines (marketed under such names as Benadryl, Allegra, and Zyrtec), Neti Pots, decongestants such as Sudafed, or nasal sprays such as Afrin. There are remedies as simple as drinking herbal tea or turning on a humidifier, and as extreme as injections or even surgery.

Causes of Nasal Congestion

What actually happens when you have a blocked nose? Whether it be a periodic problem or a chronic issue, there are many possible causes. Allergies, infection, and colds are just some of these. Whatever the root of the problem is, it causes the membranes of the nostril and sinus cavity to become swollen, which causes a backup of mucus and makes breathing through the nose uncomfortable or impossible.

The swelling is often caused by common allergies to things such as pet dander, dust, pollen, and other common allergens. Hay fever is a blanket term given to these types of allergies. Other potential causes are viruses, such as the common cold or flu, or more serious problems, such as a sinus infection or an upper respiratory infection.

Pregnancy, nasal polyps, or eating spicy food can also lead to a stuffy nose. It can even be a side effect of diseases you wouldn't normally associate with a blocked nose, such as diabetes.

Structural problems within the nose can also lead to blockage. Many infants and children suffer from swollen adenoids, tonsil-like tissue at the back of the nose. This causes these children to suffer from a blocked nose, made all the worse by the fact that they can't readily express their anguish in any way other than snoring or breathing through their mouths awkwardly. Mouth-breathing can also lead to further infection.

Another structural cause is a deviated septum, which can be inflicted on young ones during childbirth or through blows to the face (Lesson: don't deliver blows to your child's face). The septum is the cartilage that separates the nose into two nostrils, but through trauma, it can block one side of the nose, which leads to infection and a neverending blockage of the nasal passages. Some people choose to have surgery to correct these issues, while others learn to use various remedies to improve the quality of their breathing.

Neti Pots and other Blocked Nose Treatments

After figuring out why your nose is blocked, what can you do about it? Blowing your nose incessantly and enduring this miserable condition will only serve to make your nasal passage more irritated and will not cure the problem. Over-the-counter nasal sprays can give you temporary relief, but if used too frequently, can become addictive and have harmful side effects. There are many ways that your blocked nose can be soothed safely, some as simple as using a humidifier, drinking warm tea, and refraining from alcohol. Another popular and safe method is the Jala Neti pot, while some people take antihistamine pills or even go to the doctor for injections to ease their blocked nose. It is certainly in your best interest to put aside the tissue box and read up on the various treatments. Find the one that seems most appropriate, safe, and effective for you.

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