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    Nose, stuffy (Nasal congestion)


    Definition of nose, stuffy (nasal congestion)

    Nasal congestion or “stuffy nose” occurs when nasal and adjacent tissues and blood vessels become swollen with excess fluid, causing a “stuffy” feeling. Nasal congestion may or may not be accompanied by a nasal discharge or “runny nose.”

    Nasal congestion usually is just an annoyance for older children and adults. But nasal congestion can be serious in infants, who might have a hard time nursing or breathing as a result.

    Causes of nose, stuffy (nasal congestion)

    Nasal congestion can be caused by anything that irritates or inflames the nasal tissues. Infections — such as colds, influenza or sinusitis — allergies and various irritants, such as tobacco smoke, may all cause a runny nose. Some people have a chronically runny nose for no apparent reason — a condition called nonallergic rhinitis or vasomotor rhinitis (VMR).

    Less commonly, nasal congestion can be caused by polyps or a tumor. Other potential causes of nasal congestion include:

    1. Acute sinusitis
    2. Bright lights
    3. Chronic sinusitis
    4. Churg-Strauss syndrome
    5. Cluster headache
    6. Cold temperature
    7. Common cold
    8. Decongestant nasal spray overuse
    9. Deviated septum
    10. Drug addiction
    11. Dry air
    12. Dust mite allergy
    13. Enlarged adenoids
    14. Food allergy
    15. Foreign body in the nose
    16. Hay fever
    17. High blood pressure medications
    18. Hormonal changes
    19. Influenza (flu)
    20. Latex allergy
    21. Medications
    22. Milk allergy
    23. Mold allergy
    24. Nasal polyps
    25. Nonallergic rhinitis
    26. Occupational asthma
    27. Other infections
    28. Peanut allergy
    29. Perfume
    30. Pet allergy
    31. Pregnancy
    32. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
    33. Shellfish allergy
    34. Soy allergy
    35. Spicy foods
    36. Stress
    37. Thyroid problems
    38. Tobacco smoke
    39. Wegener’s granulomatosis
    40. Wheat allergy

    When to see a doctor

    A stuffy or runny nose is usually just an annoyance. But it can be a sign of a more serious problem, and it may be serious in infants.

    Call your doctor if:

    • Your symptoms last more than 10 days.
    • You have a high fever, particularly if it lasts more than three days.
    • Your nasal discharge is green and is accompanied by sinus pain or fever. This may be a sign of a bacterial infection.
    • You have asthma or emphysema, or you’re taking immune-suppressing medications.
    • You have blood in your nasal discharge or a persistent clear discharge after a head injury.

    Call your child’s doctor if:

    • Your child is younger than 2 months and has a fever.
    • Your baby’s runny nose or congestion causes trouble nursing or makes breathing difficult.


    Until you see your doctor, try these simple steps to relieve symptoms:

    • Sniffing and swallowing or gently blowing your nose.
    • If the runny nose is a persistent, watery discharge, particularly if accompanied by sneezing and itchy or watery eyes, your symptoms may be allergy-related, and an over-the-counter antihistamine may help. Be sure to follow the label instructions exactly.
    • For babies and small children, use a soft, rubber-bulb syringe to gently remove any secretions.

    Try these measures to relieve postnasal drip — when excess mucus accumulates in the back of your throat:

    • Avoid common irritants such as cigarette smoke and sudden temperature changes.
    • Drink plenty of water.
    • Use a humidifier.
    • Try nasal saline sprays or rinses.
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