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Cold and Flu Center

Decongestant Remedies

author image Julie Hampton
Julie Hampton has worked as a professional freelance writer since 1999 for various newspapers and websites including "The Florida Sun" and "Pensacola News Journal." She served in the U.S. Army as a combat medic and nurse for over six years and recently worked as the Community Relations Director for a health center. Hampton studied journalism and communications at the University of West Florida.
Decongestant Remedies
A stuffy nose and congestion can cause difficulty breathing. Photo Credit Butsaya/iStock/Getty Images


The common cold, sinusitis and the flu often cause congestion. Congestion is uncomfortable and makes breathing difficult. Varieties of at-home remedies relieve congestion and temporarily make breathing easier. Still, parents of infants and small children should closely monitor congestion. Congestion may cause difficulty breathing in infants who are unable to clear their nasal passageways. Adults with congestion lasting over 10 days should also seek medication attention.


Moist air will loosen nasal secretions and decrease symptoms related to a “stuffy nose.” Patients should place a humidifier near commonly used areas including a couch or bed. Eucalyptus oil can be added to the humidifier’s water for aromatherapy. A person may breathe in moist air by taking a hot shower or bath. Steaming the face will also allow a person to breathe in moist air. To do this, the individual should boil hot water on the stove, move the pan to a table and place his head over the steam with his head covered to create a tent to keep the steam from escaping. The face is steamed for about 10 minutes or until mucous loosens or drips from the nose. The process may be repeated throughout the day as needed to decrease congestion.

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Neti Pot

A neti pot looks similar to a teapot and is used to cleanse the sinus passageways. A homemade saline solution can be created using salt and distilled or purified water. Tap water should be boiled and then brought to room temperature before using. MayoClinic.com recommends mixing 1/8 tsp. of salt with 8 oz. of water and stirring until the salt dissolves. To use, a person stands over a sink and tilts her head to one side, with one nostril facing up. The neti pot solution is inserted into the nostril and the saline solution is allowed to flow into the congested nostril and out the opposite nostril. The process loosens mucous and congestion. It can be repeated as often as necessary.

Saline Drops and Medications

Saline drops may be used to dry up congestion. The drops are available over the counter or can be prepared using a similar recipe as the neti pot solution. Placing a few drops inside nostrils decreases congestion. Decongestant nasal sprays are available over the counter; however, these medications should not be used for more than three days. After three days congestion may actually worsen if medication use continues, advises MedlinePlus. Over-the-counter antihistamines reduce mucous production, but will cause some people to become drowsy. MedlinePlus recomends those suffering from congestion to try gentler treatments before turning to medications to relieve congestion.

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