How to clear a blocked nose

Frustrated with your blocked nose? Here’s some advice on how to help clear it quickly and breathe easy again.

We all know those frustrating signs of a blocked nose – feeling constantly stuffy, speaking in a nasal voice, and struggling to sleep and breathe properly. While stuffy noses are rarely serious, they’re irritating and uncomfortable. Thankfully, there are ways to help clear a blocked nose and get relief – read on to learn more.

What causes a blocked nose?

A blocked nose occurs when the blood vessels in the sinuses become inflamed, causing swelling in the nasal tissues. Not sure how to tell if your blocked nose is caused by an allergy or cold and flu? Check out our handy table here.

What is the difference between an allergy or a cold?

Hayfever or allergies share many of their symptoms with the common cold, which can cause some confusion – but there are some key differences.7

Bear in mind that allergy symptoms also tend to continue until they’re treated properly. So, where your average cold tends to last between 3 and 14 days, allergies can persist for weeks at a time and even entire seasons.7

Common reasons why blood vessels in the sinuses become inflamed can include:

  • Infections – cold, flu and sinus infection
  • Allergies – one of the most common symptoms of pet, mould, pollen and dust allergies is a blocked nose
  • Irritants – tobacco smoke and pollution can inflame the nasal passages
  • Dry air – cold air can irritate nasal passages.

Some of the most common methods to relieve a blocked nose caused by allergies include natural decongestants, nasal decongestants, intranasal corticosteroid nasal sprays (INCS) and antihistamines.

Natural decongestants

Natural decongestants are treatments that may help to relieve your congested nose without medication. Here are the most common natural decongestants:

  • Humidifier – devices called humidifiers add moisture to the air, helping to make it easier to breathe
  • Steam – breathing in the steam from a bowl of warm water can help soothe congested airways
  • Wet towel – placing a warm, wet towel on your face may help open the nasal passages
  • Sleeping with your head elevated – this will encourage the sinuses to drain
  • Staying hydrated – drinking plenty of water keeps your body hydrated and helps keep the nasal passages moist
  • Saline nasal sprays – helps to wash out allergens and mucus in the nose.

Intranasal corticosteroids nasal spray (INCS)

If allergies are causing your blocked nose, consider trying an INCS which is an effective option available from pharmacies to manage and control nasal allergy symptoms long term. INCS have a direct anti-inflammatory action inside the nasal passages to both treat and prevent moderate to severe hayfever symptoms and can be used long term for up to six months, or longer if advised by your doctor or pharmacist. INCS should be used every day for best results and to enjoy continuous 24-hour relief from hayfever, dust allergies, pet allergies and mould allergies. To find out if an INCS is suitable for your needs, speak to your healthcare professional.

Oral antihistamines

Oral antihistamines are another popular treatment for mild allergy sufferers looking for fast relief from multiple allergy symptoms. They are useful for people who prefer taking tablets over using nasal sprays. Some antihistamines can help to provide relief from a blocked nose caused by allergies. Speak to your healthcare professional about which products are appropriate for you.

Nasal decongestant sprays

Nasal decongestant sprays are available from pharmacies for a blocked nose and are most often used to treat symptoms of a cold but can also provide relief to a blocked nose caused by allergies. Decongestant sprays contain medications that relieve swelling in the nasal passages.

There are many nasal decongestant sprays available over the counter in pharmacies. Importantly, these medicines should be used for short-term relief only.

To find out if a decongestant spray is suitable for your needs, speak to your healthcare professional.

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How can you prevent getting a blocked nose again?

If you experience recurrent blocked noses, it’s important to determine whether they’re caused by allergies, cold and flu, or something else. Knowing what triggers your blocked nose will help you to identify effective strategies to prevent it occurring in future. Speak to your healthcare professional about possible causes and triggers.

A blocked nose is rarely a sign of a more serious issue. Still, you should visit your healthcare professional if:

  • your blocked nose is not going away with treatment
  • you have bloody, yellow or green nasal discharge
  • you have a high fever or difficulty breathing.

The materials on this site have been prepared for general information purposes only. They are not intended to be relied on as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional for any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Is it a cold or allergies?

Find out the difference here