How to get rid of a blocked nose: Doctor-verified home remedies

Written by Dr Nelson Lau, MBBS FRACGP, GP & Digital Health Specialist

That infuriating feeling of not being able to breathe through your nose… a classic hallmark of the common cold, allergies, or even dry winter air. A stuffed-up nose is the epitome of a minor, yet majorly irritating, ailment. Fortunately, several effective remedies exist to reclaim your nasal passages and get you breathing easily again. Here’s how to get rid of a blocked nose.

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Tips for Getting Rid of a Stuffy Nose

Let’s explore some easy strategies to conquer that congestion

1. Steam Power

Inhale steam from a hot shower or bowl of hot water with a towel over your head. The warm moisture thins mucous, promotes drainage, and offers a soothing sensation. For extra benefits, try adding a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil to your steaming water, as their natural decongestant properties can further open airways.

2. Warm Fluids

Sipping warm tea, broth, or simply hot water with lemon can provide a similar soothing effect from within. Staying hydrated aids your body’s healing functions, including thinning mucus. Chamomile tea is a great choice, as its gentle anti-inflammatory properties can calm irritated nasal passages.

3. Saline Nasal Spray

A simple saline (saltwater) nasal spray helps flush out irritants and thin out the mucous. Over-the-counter options are readily available, or you can easily make your own at home. For homemade saline, mix a quarter of a teaspoon of non-iodised salt and a pinch of baking soda in a cup of warm distilled water.

4. Neti Pot

More thorough than nasal sprays, a neti pot flushes out mucous and irritants with a larger volume of saline solution. Using a neti pot involves tilting your head and pouring the saline solution into one nostril, allowing it to drain out the other. Always use sterile water (distilled or previously boiled and cooled) and follow the neti pot instructions carefully. 

5. Humidifier

Dry air aggravates congestion. Run a humidifier, especially at night, to increase moisture in the air and soothe irritated nasal passages. Remember to clean your humidifier regularly to prevent the growth of mould.

6. Elevating Your Hea

Propping yourself up with an extra pillow at night can improve drainage and make it easier to breathe through your nose when sleeping.

Causes of a Stuffy Nose

Understanding the root cause can help pinpoint the best remedy:

  • Common cold or flu: Viruses wreak havoc on your nasal passages, causing inflammation and mucous buildup.
  • Allergies: Hay fever and other sensitivities trigger your immune system to overreact, leading to congestion, runny nose, and sometimes itchy eyes or sneezing.
  • Dry air: Especially in winter, low humidity dries out your nasal passages, making mucous thick and difficult to clear.
  • Sinus infection: If congestion is severe and accompanied by facial pain and pressure, it might indicate a sinus infection.

When to Consult a Doctor?

Most stuffy noses resolve on their own within a week or two. However, see your GP if you experience:

  • Thick, discoloured nasal discharge (yellow or green)
  • Fever and persistent facial pain
  • Symptoms lasting longer than ten days
  • A weakened immune system
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

Over-the-counter (OTC) decongestant pills or nasal sprays can offer temporary relief. However, consult with your doctor or pharmacist before using these, especially if you have high blood pressure or take other medications. Prolonged use of decongestant nasal sprays specifically can sometimes worsen congestion in the long run.

Can Telehealth Doctors Help with a Blocked Nose?

Telehealth doctors can quickly assess your symptoms, rule out underlying conditions, recommend appropriate treatments, and prescribe medications if necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I unblock my nose naturally?

The strategies listed above are all natural and effective. Steam inhalation, warm fluids (especially chamomile tea), saline nasal sprays or a neti pot, and a humidifier at night offer relief and aid your body’s natural clearing mechanisms. Adding a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint oil to your steaming water can further enhance its decongestant properties. 

Does blowing your nose help?

Yes, but it’s all about moderation. Gentle blowing helps remove excess mucous and can bring short-term relief.  Blowing one nostril at a time avoids excessive force. However, constant, forceful blowing can actually irritate sensitive tissues inside your nose and worsen the situation.

How long does a stuffy nose last?

For colds and allergies, congestion usually resolves within a week or so. If you find your stuffy nose persists beyond ten days, or worsens along with other symptoms like fever and facial pain, a trip to your doctor is best to rule out sinus infections or other underlying issues

Does spicy food clear a stuffy nose?

While not a long-term solution, spicy foods can provide temporary relief. Capsaicin, the active compound in hot peppers, triggers a runny nose and thins the mucous, offering a short moment of easier breathing. Just be prepared for that rebound effect as things settle back down.

Is it better to leave a stuffy nose or blow it?

Ideally, it’s good to strike a balance. Blowing your nose gently helps to remove excess mucous and can relieve the feeling of pressure in your sinuses. However, avoid blowing frequently or too forcefully, as this can irritate nasal tissues. If possible, try strategies like steam inhalation or saline rinse to loosen up the mucous before lightly clearing your nose

Can dehydration make a stuffy nose worse?

Yes, dehydration can actually worsen a stuffy nose. Staying well-hydrated supports your body in producing thin, easily cleared secretions. When dehydrated, mucous becomes thick and sticky, making your congestion feel even worse.  Focus on drinking plenty of fluids, especially warm ones, for both internal and external congestion relief.

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Disclaimer

This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. For emergencies please immediately contact 000.