ZocdocAnswersWhat helps relieve a stuffy nose?

Question

What helps relieve a stuffy nose?

I'm a pretty healthy guy in my 30s, and I've been down with a bad cold. The worst part is the stuffy nose. What's the best way for me to clear out my sinuses so I can breathe freely again?

Answer

There are a number of different modalities that can be used to help with nasal congestion. - Decongestants: These over the counter medications work by shrinking the small blood vessels in the lining of the nose, which decreases swelling and helps ease breathing through the nose. There are both decongestant pills such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine as well as nasal decongestant sprays. The sprays should be used for 3 days or less as they can actually make congestion worse if used for longer. Decongestant pills should not be taken by those with high blood pressure. - Antihistamines: These over the counter medications work by decreasing mucous production and secretion. Diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine are examples of this type of medication. Use these with caution as they can cause drowsiness. - Saline nasal sprays: This can also be obtained in the drug store as an over the counter product. They help by keeping nasal secretions thin and draining. They can be used every hour or two as needed and do not cause rebound nasal congestion as the nasal decongestants do. - Neti pot: This is a device used for irrigating the nasal passages and sinuses. It is a small pot with a long spout that is inserted into one nostril. A salt and water solution is then poured into the nasal passages, which drains out the other nostril. - Humidified air: Using a vaporizer or taking a hot shower can also help. Persistent problems with congestion can be signs of a more serious problem that may need the help of a specialist such as an allergist or ear, nose, and throat doctor. Please see your doctor if you have persistent congestion after your other cold symptoms have resolved.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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