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Blocked nose -- causes and remedies

Blocked nose -- causes and remedies

Feel helpless about your blocked nose? Try these expert tips offered by Dr Atul Mittal, Director, ENT, FMRI for instant relief.

Written by Shraddha Rupavate |Published : December 23, 2014 3:35 PM IST

Nasal congestion or the feeling of a blocked nose can be a real problem with noticeable effects on quality of life, energy level, ability to breathe, ability to sleep, and ability to function in general. It could be extensive, making breathing a challenge or simply a diminutive nuisance. According to Dr Atul Mittal, Director, ENT, FMRI, people adapt themselves so well to live with a blocked nose during winter that they tend to ignore why it's bothering them every single time. A blocked nose can, in fact, lead to complications if left ignored. Dr Mittal explains some potential problems caused due to nasal congestion and offers some easy tips that will help you trick cold this winter.

What causes nasal obstruction or blocked nose?

Your nose is lined by a thin mucous membrane which can swell to cause blockage, making breathing difficult. Often, swelling of the lining of the nose is termed as 'rhinitis' and it can have many other causes. Viral infection is the most common cause of swelling of the nose linings but apart from that, rhinitis may be due to bacterial infection in the nose and sinuses, or allergy. (Read: Throat lozenges for sore throat do they work?

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Sometimes, blocked nose can be caused due to problems with the shape or swelling of the lining of the inside of the nose, twisting of the middle partition of the nose (the nasal septum), or weakness of the outside of the nose. Occasionally, other structures, such as the adenoids, can be enlarged leading to nasal obstruction. Here are 10 facts about seasonal cold and cough.

In certain conditions it may be accompanied by other symptoms such as rhinorrhoea (nasal discharge, which can drip from the front of the nose, or into the back of the throat - catarrh), facial pain, anosmia (loss of sense of smell), sneezing, itching and crusting.

Treatment of nasal congestion

The treatment options for your blocked nose depend on the underlying cause and the severity of your symptoms:

  • If the cause of your nasal obstruction is rhinitis, your specialist may prescribe a course of medication such as an intranasal steroid spray, antihistamines or decongestants.
  • If blocked nose is caused due to a structural defect, a surgical intervention may be needed.
  • Enlarged adenoids and tonsils also need to be surgically removed to resolve the related nasal congestion.


If left untreated, nasal congestion can interfere with your ability to hear and talk. It can cause snoring, and can be associated with sleep apnea. In newborns, it can lead to life-threatening respiratory distress. Sometimes, ignoring nasal symptoms, such as congestion, sneezing, runny nose or thick nasal discharge can aggravate lung problems.

The nose helps in filtering all dust and pollen present in the air with 100% efficiency. It humidifies the air that you breathe, adding moisture to prevent dryness of the lining of the lungs and bronchial tubes. Paying attention to problems in the nose problems, allergic rhinitis for instance, can reduce or avoid problems in the lungs, such as bronchitis and asthma. Here's why you should not blow your nose too hard when it's blocked.

Here are a few tips to trick the cold:

  • Sip hot liquids: The effect of hot liquids, like chicken soup, on congestion can mostly be chalked up to the placebo effect. Hot fluids act as an anti-inflammatory and temporarily relieve congestion and limit the amount of time viruses are in contact with the lining of your nose. Plus, liquids help prevent dehydration.
  • Use vaporizers: Humidifiers or vaporizers are a soothing way to breathe in steam, or vapours such as menthol and eucalyptus.
  • Loosen mucus with sprays: Saline sprays boost moisture and are especially helpful in winter months when the inside of the nose may dry out or be used to help wash away any thick sticky mucus in your nose.
  • Inhale steam: Inhaling steam helps to open up and soothe irritated nasal passages. Here's how steam inhalation helps cure a cold.
  • Drink more tea: Having peppermint tea also speeds up the clearance of the nasal gunk.
  • Rest well: Adequate bed rest boosts immune function and reduces the risk of catching a cold. People who sleep less than seven hours a night are three times more likely to catch a cold.

While one can try to run from the rhinovirus but can t hide. The common cold is your body literally telling you to maybe take it down a notch. So, between the sniffles, have a listen. Take a nap. Watch a movie. Stay home.

Photo source: Getty images

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