Home Remedies for Stuffy Nose

Sick Young Woman Blowing Her Nose
Increasing moisture in your home and drinking more fluids can help ease a stuffy nose. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Nasal congestion usually occurs when the mucous membranes inside the nose become inflamed and swollen, but may also be caused by excess, thick mucus in the nose. The sinuses can also become inflamed, worsening a stuffy nose. (see ref 2) Americans spend roughly 6 billion dollars each year on treatments for nasal and sinus congestion. (see ref 1) Home remedies can offer a cost-effective way to ease a stuffy nose.

Home Remedies: Effectiveness

A review of treatments for nasal congestion and infections published in a 2011 issue of Allergy, Asthma & Clinical Immunology, or AACI, that many aren’t helpful. Among people with bacterial infections of the nose and sinuses, there was no significant improvement in symptoms or speed of recovery in people who took antibiotics versus those who took a placebo. (see ref 1)

Home Remedies: Nasal Rinses

Gentle saline sprays or rinses can help ease a stuffy nose. A rinse of a 3 percent saline solution, used three times per day to irrigate the nose and sinuses, cleans the nasal passages and can make nasal spray medications more effective. (see ref 1, 3, 6) The AACI review noted research indicating that this irrigation improved nasal congestion as well as quality of life, and allowed some people to reduce their medication use. (see ref 1)

To make your own saline nasal rinse, the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology recommends combining 3 tsp of iodine-free salt with 1 tsp baking soda. Mix 1 tsp of that salt solution with 1 c distilled or boiled water at a lukewarm temperature. Use a bulb syringe to irrigate each nostril. (see ref 4)

Saline nasal sprays may also be used, but the AACI review notes that these are less effective than using the irrigation method. (see ref 1, 6)

Home Remedies: Fluids/Humidifiers

Run a humidifier to help moisten nasal passages, ease nasal congestion, and ease breathing difficulties from upper respiratory infections. The extra moisture in the air can help thin mucus in the nose that restricts breathing. (see ref 2) But, the Environmental Protection Agency warns to keep humidifiers clean to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi in the machines. (see ref 7)

Drink plenty of fluids – especially soup broth, chicken soup and hot tea – to help thin mucus and feel better, recommends Medline Plus. (see ref 2)

Warnings

A viral infection such as sinusitis or the common cold that does not improve within about 10 days could indicate a bacterial infection. If your symptoms don’t improve within 10 days, consult a doctor to see if you may need antibiotics, allergy medications or other medications to help ease your stuffy nose. (see ref 6) Other warning signs include coughing up mucus that is yellow or green in color; facial swelling; blurred vision or sore throat. (see ref 2)

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