11/18/2013 09:09 EST

Cause, Effect, Treat: What's Wrong With My Nose?!

altrendo images via Getty Images

We’ve all been there; you wake up and suddenly, your head feels like it’s been packed with foam. Your throat is as tender as a fresh steak. And worst of all: your nose is that impossible combination of stuffed and runny. Is there any greater way to start a day?

The upside to all of this is that it is, for the most part, temporary. There is a linear cause and effect of nasal congestion or a runny nose, and it can be treated with different sprays or home remedies. If the congestion stays longer than a week and not because of annoying allergies, which do cause congestion as well, then perhaps it is more serious and needs more medical attention.

Photo gallery Cause, Effect, Treat: What's Wrong With My Nose?! See Gallery


By and large, nasal congestion is caused by anything that irritates tissue in the nose. Excessive nasal back-up is not necessarily because of a large amount of mucus initially in the sinus cavity, but due to swelling of blood vessels. This can be caused by anything, from a passerby’s cigarette, to a common virus, or even serious polyps.

Nasal congestion can be the result of a contagious self-limited virus: the common part of the common cold. It is generally known as a viral upper respiratory tract infection. For those of us who are not doctors, it means this: you’re going to have a lot of problems/inconveniences with the top part of your body (torso and higher), so you need to rest and recover. Once you’ve recovered, chances are that it will be the last time that this particular strain of cold haunts you. The number of cold strains is seemingly endless, but they all amount to similar symptoms in the end.


The basic outcome of having nasal congestion is that you’re going to be spending a lot of time with a box of tissues. A stuffy nose can feel and appear more serious than its casual classification suggests. It takes about a week for it to resolve, but until then it will make your nose feel heavy and sore, especially the area around the nose where the sinus cavities are. The area in and around the nose could also be raw from trying to purge the mucus from your system.

Breathing through the nose just isn’t an option for awhile because the tissues are so swollen.

Eventually though, the mucus will loosen and flow, either through the nose or down your throat, which can cause congestion in your throat.


The good news is there are plenty of ways to treat nasal congestion. Here are a few:

Decongestant nasal sprays

Meant for temporary relief, medicated decongestant nasal sprays help reduce the swelling and resulting pressure in your nasal and sinus tissues wreaking havoc on your nose, thus allowing air to flow a little easier . The chief advantage of nasal sprays is their speed; since they are being delivered directly to the problem area, they start to work quickly (within three minutes). Decongestant sprays do contain medication and should be used for no more than what the product labelling suggests or what the prescriptions say as some types must be prescribed for more serious ailments.

Saline solutions

Similar to the decongestant nasal spray, saline solutions also provide relief by loosening and washing away mucus, and preventing nasal crusting (that’s a pleasant image). Saline solutions are non-medicated and come in two types: isotonic (containing a salt level similar to that of your own body’s, suitable for everyday use) and hypertonic (containing a higher salt level, and best suited for more severe nasal reactions). It bears mentioning that hypertonic solutions are not suitable or safe for extended use, so consider turning to them only occasionally when you are experiencing more severe congestion.

Home remedies

Hydration is the key: tea, juice, even water. Guzzle some water with a few drops of oil of oregano and see what happens. Magic! Well, actually, science; increased hydration can help reduce pressure on the blood vessels in your nose and make breathing less of a chore. But it’ll feel like magic!