Nasal Congestion: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Anyone can develop nasal congestion – a bothersome symptom that impacts the quality of life – due to various factors. While mild congestion frequently clears on its own, there are various treatments available for this condition, depending on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. Below, comprehend more about the problems that provoke congestion & how to find efficacious relief with the best medication.

What Is Nasal Congestion (Stuffy Nose)?

Nasal congestion, also known as a stuffy or blocked nose, is a common condition that occurs when the tissues & blood vessels inside the nose become swollen with excess fluid. This swelling can make it difficult to breathe through the nose, leading to a feeling of stuffiness or fullness in the nasal passages [1]. It can be a temporary condition that clears up on its own, or it can be a chronic concern that requires medical treatment. Congestion that endures for a week or so may be a symptom of an infection.

What Are Nasal Congestion Symptoms?

Its symptoms can vary in severity & duration, including the following:

  • stuffy, runny, or blocked nose;
  • difficulty breathing;
  • decreased sense of smell or taste;
  • postnasal drip;
  • pressure or pain in the sinuses;
  • headache;
  • sneezing;
  • coughing;
  • sore throat.

In more severe cases, this condition may also induce fatigue, irritability, and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, particularly if they are chronic or long-lasting. It can affect daily activities & reduce the overall quality of life.

Most Common Causes of Stuffy Nose

Minor ailments are the most typical causes of a blocked nose. For instance, the flu, a cold, and sinus infections. Besides, illness-related congestion commonly enhances within 1–2 weeks. However, if it endures longer than 10–14 days, it’s often a manifestation of an underlying health problem. Some causes for long-term nasal congestion may be [2]:


Allergies can provoke a blocked nose through a process known as the allergic response. When you breathe in an allergen, such as pollen or dust, your immune system may overreact and produce an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies then trigger the release of histamine, a chemical that causes inflammation in your nasal passages and makes them swell. The swelling can narrow the airway and provoke a stuffy nose.


It can induce a stuffy nose by inflaming and irritating the nasal tissues. Viral infections, such as the common cold, flu, & sinus infections, are the most common types of infections causing a blocked nose. During an infection, the body produces more mucus to trap and remove the invading pathogens, causing a stuffy nose as a result.

Structural Abnormalities

Structural abnormalities in the nose, such as a deviated septum, nasal polyps, or enlarged adenoids, can cause a stuffy nose by obstructing the nasal passages. A deviated septum occurs when the wall between the nostrils is displaced to one side, making one nostril smaller than the other, which can cause difficulty breathing through the nose. Enlarged adenoids can obstruct the nasal passages if they become enlarged.

Chemical or Environmental Irritants

Irritants such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, chemical fumes, household cleaning products, or paint fumes can cause a stuffy nose by irritating the nasal passages and causing inflammation. When exposed to irritants, the nasal passages may produce excess mucus in an attempt to clear the irritant, which can result in a stuffy nose. Additionally, when the nasal passages are irritated, the blood vessels in the nasal lining become inflamed and swollen, leading to congestion.


Certain meds can cause a stuffy nose as a side effect. This includes meds used to treat high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction (ED), & nasal allergies. Also, birth control pills, antidepressants, meds for Parkinson’s disease, & some antihistamines can cause nasal congestion as a side effect. Overuse of nasal decongestants can also lead to a rebound effect, causing a stuffy nose to worsen over time.

Certainly, ED meds such as Viagra (sildenafil) can cause a stuffy nose as a side effect in some people. This is because sildenafil can dilate blood vessels, not only in the penis but also in other parts of the body, including the nasal passages. This can lead to increased blood flow and congestion in the nasal passages. However, not everyone experiences nasal congestion as a side effect of Viagra, and the severity and duration of the congestion can vary between individuals.

Is taking decongestant with Viagra safe? Indeed, taking decongestant with Viagra is safe if mixed correctly. Consequently, individuals experiencing nasal congestion resulting from Viagra may use certain decongestants for relief, as such a mixture isn’t intrinsically risky in terms of immediate health threats. Be sure to mix decongestant with Viagra in moderation.

Hormonal Changes

During pregnancy, hormonal changes can cause the nasal passages to swell and narrow, leading to nasal congestion. Similarly, women may experience nasal congestion during the menstrual cycle due to changes in estrogen levels. Hormonal changes associated with menopause can also cause nasal congestion. In addition, hormonal therapies such as birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy can cause nasal congestion as a side effect.

Sinusitis (Sinus Infection)

It’s an inflammation or swelling of the tissue lining the sinuses. Sinusitis can provoke nasal congestion by blocking the nasal passages and preventing mucus drainage. The congestion associated with sinusitis may also cause a headache, facial pain or pressure, and a decreased sense of smell. Sinusitis can be caused by a viral infection, bacterial infection, or allergies.

Those are the most common cause of nasal congestion. 

When You Should See a Doctor?

You should see a doctor if your nasal congestion lasts longer than 10 days or is accompanied by other severe symptoms. It’s also important to seek medical attention if you have a weakened immune system, such as due to HIV or cancer, or if you have recently had an organ transplant. Additionally, if you are experiencing nasal congestion that is interfering with your daily activities or sleep, it may be worth consulting with a doctor.

Nasal Congestion Treatment

Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Here are some common treatments:

  • decongestants such as pseudoephedrine or oxymetazoline can provide short-term relief from a stuffy nose by shrinking swollen nasal tissues;
  • antihistamines: If the causality of a stuffy nose is due to allergies, OTC antihistamines such as loratadine or cetirizine can aid to lessen inflammation & congestion;
  • nasal corticosteroids such as fluticasone or mometasone are efficacious in reducing inflammation & swelling in the nasal passages. They can take several days to start working, but their effects can last for several weeks;
  • saline nasal sprays help to flush out mucus and other irritants from the nose. They can also help to moisturize dry nasal passages;
  • neti pots: These small devices are filled with saline solution & are used to rinse out the nasal passages;
  • inhaling steam from a hot shower, humidifier, or pot of hot water can aid to relieve a stuffy nose;
  • using a humidifier or vaporizer can add moisture to the air and help reduce nasal congestion;
  • external nasal strips can be placed on the nose to help open up the nasal passages and improve breathing;
  • avoid exposure to smoke or chemical fumes.

If your symptoms persist or are severe, see a doctor for further evaluation & treatment.

Home Remedies for Nasal Congestion

To remedy congestion at home, you might try [3]:

  • taking a warm shower;
  • staying hydrated;
  • keeping the head at an elevated position while sleeping to prevent mucus from pooling in the sinuses;
  • inhaling steam can aid relieve the condition by moistening the nasal passages & making it easier to breathe;
  • make nasal rinses or saline nasal irrigation;
  • administer OTC pain relief meds if there is sinus pressure or pain;
  • applying a cold compress to aching areas of the face;
  • administering prophylactic probiotics or ingesting probiotic-rich foods, e.g., yogurt or kimchi.

Besides, using supplements that boost immunity, e.g., echinacea, vitamin C, zinc sulfate, or geranium extract also helps treat the condition.


A stuffy nose is a common and often temporary condition that can be easily managed with proper treatment, especially if it’s caused by a minor illness like the common cold or allergies. Nonetheless, if the congestion persists for an extended time, it can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. In such cases, speak with a doctor for a proper diagnosis & treatment plan.


  1. Nasal Congestion: Symptoms & Signs Medical. By Melissa Conrad Stöppler. Medically Reviewed on October 9, 2019. Retrieved: February 19, 2023.
  2. What Causes a Stuffy Nose? By Kristeen Moore. Medically reviewed by Nicole Leigh Aaronson. Updated: August 2, 2022. Retrieved: February 19, 2023.
  3. 16 Ways to Clear Nasal Congestion. Co-authored by Monica Kieu and Hunter Rising. Last Updated: January 2, 2023. Retrieved: February 19, 2023.