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A blocked nose (stuffed nose) is the partial or complete obstruction of the nasal passages, either affecting one nostril or both, and may be constant or episodic where it occurs only at certain times of the day, seasons or under specific conditions. Nasal obstruction is usually considered to be a result of  swelling of the nasal lining or nasal congestion with mucus due to conditions like sinusitis or hay fever but can also occur from anatomical abnormalities like a deviated septum.

Symptoms of a Blocked Nose

A constant blocked nose can be uncomfortable, awkward and impact on daily functioning. Symptoms of a blocked nose may vary according to the cause of the blocked nose.

  • Nasal tone of the voice
  • ‘Runny nose’ (coryza)
  • Pain or pressure at the bridge of the nose
  • May be accompanied by constant sneezing
  • Mouth breathing due to nasal obstruction which may also cause a dry throat
  • Itchy throat and shallow coughing due to post nasal drip
  • Difficulty sleeping due to breathing difficulties
  • Impaired or loss of sense of smell (asomnia)
  • Reduced sense of taste

Causes of a Blocked Nose

A number of acute and chronic conditions may cause a blocked nose and in cases of a constant blocked nose, you should consult with an otolaryngologist for further examination.

  • Sinusitis, acute or chronic
  • Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) or post nasal drip
  • Influenza (flu) or a cold
  • Inflamed adenoids
  • Acute coryza – a runny nose which is usually a symptom of some other cause but may occur as a result of environmental factors, air conditioning, spicy foods.
  • Pregnancy which may aggravate hay fever or sinusitis
  • Deviated septum

Treatment of a Blocked Nose

  • In cases of a deviated septum, surgery may be required to correct the anatomical obstruction.
  • Antibiotics may be necessary for infected sinuses or nasal passages in acute cases.
  • Anti-histamines may reduce mucus production but relief is usually temporary.
  • Low doses of corticosteroids or steroid nasal sprays may be useful for chronic sinusitis and hay fever.

Remedies for a Blocked Nose

Any treatment or management should be directed at the causative factors of a blocked nose once it is identified by your medical doctor.

  • A saline nasal spray may assist with may assist in cases of a blocked nose with dry nasal passages. It may also assist with sinus congestion and can safely be used in newborns and babies with a blocked nose. However in cases of a constant blocked nose, a medical doctor should be consulted.
  • Homeopathic remedies like Allium cepa 6CH (runny nose and nasal obstruction) or  Kali muriaticum D6 (excessive mucus production) or Pulsatilla nigricans (thick nasal discharge or difficulty expectorating mucus) may assist with a blocked nose.
  • Herbal remedies like Hydrastis canadensis (golden seal), Sambucus nigra (elder) and  Ephedra (Ma huang) may assist with managing many causes of mucus production and nasal obstruction. Ephedra may be banned in certain countries due to its misuse in weight loss products and should not be used by hypertensives (any person diagnosed with high blood pressure) as is can elevate the blood pressure.
  • Strong smelling applications like essential oils, camphorated oil or other aromatic oils, creams, gels may offer temporary relief and should not be used in excess as it can aggravate a blocked nose or affect the sense of smell in the long term.
  • A humidifier may be useful for newborns and babies with a blocked nose especially when used in an enclosed room during sleep. Avoid using essential oils in a commercial humidifier as it can affect vapor formation.
  • A nebulizer device may be useful especially when a blocked nose is accompanied by respiratory problems – wheezing, asthma, bronchitis. Nebulizing should only be commenced under the supervision or advice of your medical doctor.