Virtually everyone has had an occasion to experience the pain and discomfort of nasal congestion. This condition is defined by the swelling and inflammation of the nasal membranes and blood vessels. This swelling and congestion causes pain, difficulty hearing, difficulty breathing and occasionally, problems with speech. Nasal congestion for most adults is usually just an annoyance, but for infants it can interfere with nursing and in rare cases, cause severe breathing difficulties, according to the National Institutes of Health. Some of the most common causes of nasal congestion are the common cold, the flu, sinus infection and seasonal allergies.
A primary component of nasal congestion is thick mucus that blocks the nasal passages and throat. One goal in treatment of the condition is to thin the mucus. Ingesting lots of additional fluids in the form of water, clear juice or broth can keep body hydration at appropriate levels and help reduce the viscosity of mucus. Fluid will also help ease the pain of a sore throat, which almost always accompanies nasal congestion.
Decongestant oral medications such as Sudafed, Benadryl, or other medications that contain a form of phenylephrine can be helpful for the condition. These medications reduce nasal swelling, sinus pressure and congestion by reducing blood flow to the nasal membranes. According to Sinusinfocenter.com, these do not cure the underlying problem, but help clear airways and restore breathing. They also report that patients who have high blood pressure or heart problems should consult a physician before taking. Decongestant nasal sprays can be effective, but Mayo Clinic.com warns that they should not be taken for more than 3 days as they may exacerbate the problem. Antihistamines can help stop mucus production, but those who use them should be aware that they can lead to drowsiness. If a sinus infection is causing the nasal congestion, antibiotics will likely be prescribed.
Using a room humidifier can help add moisture to a room and relieve some of the congestion associated with many conditions, according to The National Institutes of Health. Steam can penetrate mucus, thinning it, and making it easier for the individual to clear it.
If the congestion a patient experiences is caused by seasonal or other allergies, it may be helpful to avoid the allergen or trigger. Seasonal allergies can be relieved by avoiding the outdoors on days when pollen counts are high. Pet allergies can be helped by avoiding the offending animal.
According to The National Institutes of Health, congestion is often worse when lying down or sleeping. To help relieve this problem, a sufferer should raise the head of the bed or put extra pillows underneath them to allow gravity to help keep mucus from pooling in the nose and throat.