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Nasal congestion


Nasal congestion is not an illness, but a symptom of an illness, allergy, or other significant event inside the body that is alerting the patient to discomfort. Nasal congestion can be anywhere from mild to severe, short term to long term, and irritating to life affecting.

NASAL CONGESTION SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

The most common association with nasal congestion is the onset of the common cold. When the patient first begins to feel ill, often the first of the symptoms are runny nose, sore throat, and a feeling of general tiredness. Nasal congestion can be caused by numerous other events, such as allergies, dry air, cold air, and a deviated septum. The flu is often accompanied by nasal congestion as well.

NASAL CONGESTION CAUSES

In order to properly diagnose the cause of nasal congestion, a patient’s recent medical history as well as other symptoms should be taken into account. Patients who have no other symptoms but experience significant snoring at night are most likely suffering from a deviated septum, especially if their speech is particular nasal driven.

Blood vessels in the nose often respond to various stimuli, some of which results in the production of mucous, which leads to nasal congestion. Cold air, spicy foods, stress, exercise, and even medications can cause the blood vessels in the nasal cavity to excrete additional mucous.

Medications are one of the most overlooked causes of nasal congestion, most often because as a society we tend to associate nasal congestion with illness. Medication such as diuretics, birth control pills, erectile dysfunction medications, beta blockers, medications for anxiety and depression, long term use of narcotic medications, and extended use of nasal decongestants.

Many patients, and even some physicians, do not associate the extended use of decongestants with nasal congestions simply because the medication is designed to dry up excessive mucous. Nasal decongestants that are used repetitively may cause excessive mucous when taken too often due to the body’s sudden dependence on the medication. This process is known as the rebound effect. The rebound effect can occur with almost any medication, but some medicines are more prone to such an effect. The rebound effect simply suggests that as the body begins to rely on a medicine to perform an otherwise natural function, the symptom becomes increasingly worse. The only way to break the rebound effect is to stop the medication for a period of time and allow the body to readjust. This can cause significant discomfort. Some patients find that even after their body has adjusted back to normal, even one or two doses can signal the rebound effect and start the cycle all over again.
nasal congestion
Image: Nasal congestion

NASAL CONGESTION TREATMENT

Allergy related nasal congestion can often be solved with the use of nasal decongestants, however daily use is discouraged. For allergy relief, patients should discuss a long term treatment plan with their physician. In the event that home remedies are necessary, allergy relief can come through a variety of over the counter medications, provided that the patient is aware of the risks of addiction to nasal spray and the body’s natural dependence tendencies toward decongestants.

Nasal sprays can be effective at relieving temporary nasal congestion. However, nasal spray is uncharacteristically prone to the development of addiction. While there is no mind altering affect with nasal spray, many people find that they can not make it through a day without over using the spray numerous times, despite their desire to stop. Medical research is still looking into the nature of such addiction, and many nasal sprays relate in their directions for use that their product should not be used for more than three days at a time.


While most people find nasal congestion a mild to moderate irritation, infants may find nasal congestion threatening to their health. During the first 4 to 6 months, depending on the rate of development, infants require a high level of vigilance when it comes to nasal congestion. A simple stuffy nose can interfere with a baby’s ability to nurse or even to take from a bottle. Breathing problems can occur, and without an adult to relieve the congestion, a baby’s helpless nature can make this a potentially hazardous situation. Nasal suction bulbs and irrigation of a solution containing ½ teaspoon of salt added to tap water can help relieve the nasal congestion. Keeping the air in the home hydrated can also help.

Nasal congestion can be treated as a symptom most effectively when the cause is understood. Patients who are struggling to keep their congestion under control should consult with their family physician.

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How to solve nasal congestion when using CPAP
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