Nasal congestion happens when something irritates or causes inflammation within the nasal passages. This results in a stuffy nose that can be frustrating to deal with. It may also be accompanied by a painful pressure in the head.
There are a wide range of potential causes of nasal congestion. The common cold, flu, sinusitis, allergies like hay fever, cigarette smoke, and various other environmental irritants can all cause nasal congestion. Structural issues in the nose like a deviated septum can cause nasal congestion. Constant use of a nasal spray can have the opposite of its intended effect, making nasal congestion even worse. While not common, congestion in the nasal passages can result from the growth of a tumor in the nose. In some cases, there is no obvious reason for the nasal congestion. This is known as nonallergic rhinitis.
Nasal congestion can often be managed with simple remedies. A humidifier in the home can add some moisture to the air and help get the mucus moving out of the nose. Sleeping with an extra pillow or two can help the nasal passages to clear themselves. Saline sprays are often used for nasal congestion, as well. Some patients find that over the counter decongestants help with nasal congestion. However, patients should always let their doctor know before adding any new medication.
If nasal congestion is long term, lasting at least 10 days, it's time to see the doctor as there may be another illness at work. If nasal congestion is not responding to remedies like a humidifier, or if it seems to be getting worse, see the doctor as soon as possible. While mucus discharge is normal and desirable as nasal congestion starts to clear, the discharge should be a yellowish white color rather than being green or red. Any greenish tinged nasal discharge or bloody nasal discharge is a sign to see the doctor.