A blocked nose
We all know the feeling of having a blocked nose during a cold, but when we have a blocked nose without a cold in sight we can begin to wonder just when we are going to be able to breathe easily again. Constantly having a blocked nose can not only be irritating and unpleasant, but it can also be difficult to know the best way to tackle the problem.
Although a blocked nose with a cold can feel as if it is going on forever, it is not until a symptom has lasted for 12 weeks that it can be defined as ‘chronic’. Sometimes a constant or chronic blocked nose is termed as sinusitis.
It is unlikely that a viral-induced blocked nose is going to last this long, so we have to look to other reasons why your nose may be blocked.
Why is my nose constantly blocked?
It may come as a surprise just how many different conditions, from allergies to a deviated septum, can result in a blocked nose. With such a diversity of reasons, finding the root cause is essential for effective treatment.
Common causes of a long-term blocked nose include:
- Allergic rhinitis – this is an allergic reaction to air-borne particles such as dust mites, pollen, pets or other allergens. It can cause your nose to be blocked in the short term, as with visiting a friend with a cat, or much longer if you are constantly surrounded by the allergen, such as during the hayfever season. If you notice that your blocked nose is worse in certain environments or during certain seasons, then it is worth considering allergic rhinitis as the cause. You could try taking our hayfever symptom checker if you are unsure about whether you are suffering from allergic rhinitis, hayfever, or the cold.
- Food intolerance – you may not necessarily associate the food that you are eating with your blocked nose, but an intolerance to food can result in inflammation of the mucous membranes, such as those in your nasal passage. Common dietary intolerances include dairy and gluten.
- Nasal polyps – are one of the most common causes of a long-term blocked nose. These are small growths of tissue in your nasal passage that can obstruct the flow of air. You are more likely to develop these if you suffer from chronic allergic rhinitis. Polyps themselves are not harmful, but it is unlikely that your blocked nose will clear until the polyps have reduced in size or been removed.
- Deviated septum – the nasal septum is the cartilage sitting between the two nostrils. Ideally, it divides the nose directly down the centre. In some people, however, the septum lies off to the side. This can make one nostril feel more blocked than the other, usually because the airflow is reduced down the smaller nostril. Additionally, it can be more difficult for mucus to drain through the smaller nostril.
- Smoking – smoke is an irritant and can result in inflammation of the mucous membranes in your nose. Every time you smoke, you irritate your nasal lining even more, meaning that if you smoke regularly, your nose can constantly feel blocked. Additionally, sniffing drugs or other irritants will cause this symptom more quickly.
- Obstruction – while not so common among adults, we hope, kids do have a habit of pushing random objects up their nose (or into their ears). If your child has been complaining about a blocked nose for a while, it may be worth checking that they haven’t been storing any toys in their nostrils.
What does it feel like to constantly have a blocked nose?
Although most of us will have experienced a blocked nose at some point in our lives, there are many different causes, each with their own set of symptoms. It can be worthwhile, therefore, to spend a bit of time pinpointing exactly how you feel, as this can help you to identify the cause of your nose trouble and find an effective solution.
One important point to consider is if you are producing a lot of mucus. This is most likely to be caused by a virus, allergy or intolerance, as it is your body’s mechanism of trying to trap and expel the infection or irritant from your body.
If you feel that you are blocked up but are not really producing mucus, then this is more indicative of a physical abnormality, such as nasal polyps or a deviated septum.
It is quite common for people to complain of having a blocked nose on one side. If this is caused by an infection or allergies, then it is quite common for the blocked nostril to switch sides. If caused by a deviated septum or obstruction, then the same nostril will always be affected.
Chronic congestion in children
Children have a reputation for being plagued with snotty noses, and often this stereotype is a reality. It can be more difficult to make an accurate diagnosis in children as it can be harder for them to describe their symptoms to a doctor. It then becomes important to keep an eye on how easily they are breathing or if they are in apparent discomfort.
As the nasal passages of children are smaller and not yet fully developed, it can be more difficult for mucus to drain effectively from their nose, hence the reason they can be susceptible to having a blocked nose.
For some children, nasal sprays or nasal irrigation can help, but for many this symptom eases as they grow up. Any concerns, or symptoms which are accompanied by a fever, should always be checked with a doctor.
A blocked nose during pregnancy
It is quite common for pregnant women suddenly to find that they have a blocked nose for a long period of time. For many, this can be quite an unexpected symptom, not to mention somewhat irritating. It can be accompanied by sneezing and an itchy nose, so that it feels as if you are developing a cold, though it never really materialises.
The reason for these symptoms is thought to be linked with raised levels of the female hormone oestrogen which affects your mucous membranes, making them more susceptible to swelling. Although it may not seem like any comfort at the time, the symptom usually clears quickly after the birth of the child, once hormone levels have readjusted. In the meantime, home remedies for treating a blocked nose, such as hot and steamy showers, and saline nasal sprays, can help you feel more comfortable.
Are there home remedies for a blocked nose?
If you have been plagued by a blocked nose for quite some time, then it is only natural to want to seek an effective solution. Getting your symptom checked by the doctor is worthwhile as this can help you to identify the exact cause of the problem and therefore treat it correctly.
Certain conditions will best be treated by the doctor. For example, nasal polyps are often treated with nasal sprays containing steroids. In some severe cases, minor surgery may be required to remove the polyps. Nasal steroid sprays may also help in the treatment of a deviated septum, but again, surgery may be necessary if the septum is particularly off-centre.
As well as following any advice given by your doctor, there are many things you can try at home, including:
- Keep your head elevated – when you are lying flat, it is more difficult for gravity to do its job and drain mucus out of your nasal passages, so try raising the upper half of your body when sleeping to help prevent getting too bunged up overnight.
- Identify allergens – if you know that certain situations trigger your symptoms, then take steps to reduce exposure to the allergen and see if your symptom improves. Obviously this becomes problematic if you are allergic to your beloved pet, but simple steps such as not allowing your pet into your bedroom, for example, can make a big difference.
- Eat less dairy produce and wheat – even if you are not specifically allergic to these food groups, most people suffering a blocked nose, even if associated with temporary causes such as a cold or flu, will benefit from reducing these foods from their diet.
- Herbal nasal sprays – many conventional nasal sprays can only be used in the short term, which isn’t ideal for those plagued with constant symptoms of a blocked nose. However, herbal sprays can be used for much longer periods as they keep the natural protective function of the mucous lining intact. One example is A.Vogel Sinuforce Nasal Spray which contains fresh extracts of eucalyptus, peppermint and chamomile, and can be used continually for up to 30 days