Why Is My Nose Stuffy? -- Causes
and Top 10 Natural Remedies

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November 18, 2012

By Alison Turner, Featured Columnist

We all know a stuffy nose when we see (or feel, or hear) it.  
And since it’s always good to spice up our vocabulary, it may be
good to know that a stuffy nose is also known as fullness,
obstruction, reduced airflow, and nasal congestion.  Not only are
stuffy noses common, they are also the major symptom of
allergic rhinitis and other rhinologic conditions, which
researchers at the Weill Cornell Medical College estimate affect
tens of millions of Americans with costs as high as 6 billion
dollars in health care expenses.   How does a stuffy nose happen
in the first place, and what can we do to prevent it?

Nasal congestion (a stuffy nose) usually occurs because the
tissue lining the nose becomes swollen from inflamed blood
vessels.  The National Libraries of Health note that this swelling
is particularly concerning for newborn infants, who must
breathe through the nose, and who may have problems nursing
with nasal congestion.  Big kids and adults, too, should not
necessarily dismiss a stuffy nose as an annoyance: if the
condition continues untreated, it could lead to problems with
hearing, sleep patterns, and speech development.

A stuffy nose is often linked to the
common cold, flu,
or a sinus infection.  Treatment options range from saline nasal
sprays to antihistamine medication to surgery .  Read the list
below for other conditions that may increase your risk for a
stuffy nose, as well as for treatments tested by international
experts that may help you to reduce your risk for congestion
(and the money you spend on tissues).

Nasal Congestion: Making Pregnancy Even More Fun

A pregnant woman’s body does all sorts of unexpected things:
one of these pleasant “surprises” is the connection between
pregnancy and nasal congestion, which is old news to some
scientists.  Swedish researchers at the Central Hospital in Skovde
back in 1999  found that 65% of pregnant women "reported
stuffiness" of the nose during pregnancy.  That's almost 2 out of
3 pregnant women.

Experts have continued to explore the relationship between
pregnancy and nasal congestion, and this year, 2012, a group of
researchers led by Peter Gilbey at the Head and Neck Surgery
Unit at Ziv Medical Center in Zefat, Israel,  zoomed in on how
nasal congestion affects the quality life for pregnant women.  
Gathering data from 76 "low-risk pregnant patients," they found
that there was more "severe impairment" of the quality of life in
the third trimester of pregnancy when compared to the second.  
They conclude that "increased awareness" of nasal congestion
and its higher prevalence in pregnant women may help to
enhance the quality of life during pregnancy, as preventative
measures against consequent conditions, such as sleep apnea,
may be taken.

Worse comes to worse, it’s only nine months, right?

Decrease Your Child’s Risk of Nasal Congestion: Mom, Eat
Your Vitamin D

Many of us associate kids with runny noses, a trait that is often
seen as cute more than dangerous.  However, Glenis Scadding
with the Royal National Throat Nose & Ear Hospital in London
warns that nasal congestion could cause sleep disturbance in
children that, if left untreated, could lead to learning impairment
and fatigue.  Fortunately, experts are hard at work looking for
ways to alleviate nasal congestion in kids.  

Even better, a large team from Finland led by Dr. Maijaliisa
Erkkola with the Division of Nutrition at the University of
Helsinki,  are finding ways to decrease the risk of nasal
congestion even
before birth.

In 2009, the Finnish team assessed the diet of mothers of 1669
children, and followed the kids for five years.  They found that
the mean intake of vitamin D from food consumed by pregnant
mothers was 5.1 mg, and that this intake of vitamin D from food
was "negatively related" to the risk of asthma and allergic
rhinitis, conditions that are strongly connected to nasal

Good sources of dietary vitamin D come in the flesh of fatty fish
such as salmon and tuna, cheese, and egg yolks. Fortunately,
many foods in the U.S. are also fortified with vitamin D,
particularly milk and breakfast cereals. (Read more about
dangers caused by Vitamin D deficiency.)

Nasal Irrigation for Your Kid’s Stuffy Nose?  Not as Scary as
It Sounds

The words “irrigation” and “nasal” are usually better left in their
own sentences.  However, The National Institutes of Health
recommends that when babies or infants who "are too young to
blow their nose" suffer from a stuffy nose, one trick to try is to
cleanse the nostril with "saline drops," that you can make
yourself by stirring 1/4 teaspoon of salt into half a cup of
lukewarm water.   

If putting salty drops into your child's nostril sounds horrifying
and impossible for many reasons, you're not alone: researchers
from Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago admit that
"perhaps the biggest barrier to routine recommendation of nasal
saline irrigation in children is the assumption by both parents
and physicians that children will not tolerate it."  However, their
ensuing study proves that assumption wrong.  

In 2011, James Schroeder and colleagues  set out to determine
whether or not sitting still for saline drops was too much to
expect from our children.  Out of 61 children with nasal
congestion who were prescribed saline drops, they found that
86% of the children were "able to tolerate the treatment," and,
even better, 93% of parents "reported an improvement in their
child's overall health that they attributed to this treatment."
If your kid has nasal congestion and complains about saline
drops, let him or her know that if 86% of other kids can handle
it, they can too.

Have A Hot Toddy to Cure Stuffy Noses!

The coziness of curling up by the fire while it snows outside can
sometimes be ruined by that runny nose: a study by British
merry-makers suggests that if you add a hot apple drink to your
winter routine, that stuffy nose may clear out.

In 2008, A. Sanu and R. Eccles with the Common Cold Center at
Cardiff School of Biosciences at Cardiff University  in merry old U.
K. looked into how hot drinks might help out a stuffed up nose.  
They experimented with a "hot fruit drink," more specifically,
20ml of apple and blackcurrant cordial diluted with 80ml of hot
water, which 30 subjects suffering from cold or flu were "asked
to slowly slip," – and, in true British style -- "until it was all
drunk."  Results showed a "significant improvement in
subjective measures of nasal airflow."

If you suffer from nasal congestion, grab a mug of something
hot and drink your runny-nose woes away!

Yeast: A Stuffy Nose’s Foe

‘Tis the season to be thankful, and yeast should be on everyone’
s list.  Yeast gives us bread, beer, and wine, and, as if that’s
enough, it might help us get rid of nasal congestion.

In 2009, Mark Moyad with Preventive & Alternative Medicine at
the University of Michigan Medical Center, along with a team of
colleagues,  experimented with how yeast might alleviate nasal
congestion in patients with allergic rhinitis, a condition that
impacts nearly 25% of people around the world. 96 patients of
seasonal allergies and allergic rhinitis were given once-daily
supplementation of 500 mg of a dried yeast product for 12

They found that when pollen was highest in the environment,
this yeast supplement was associated with a "significant
reduction in nasal congestion, and that the supplement also led
to "reduced total number of days with nasal congestion."  The
team concludes that "this yeast-derived product appeared to be
safe and efficacious" in reducing symptoms of seasonal allergy,
particularly nasal congestion.

Next time you set out to bake bread or brew beer, set some of
your yeast aside to keep your stuffy nose clear.

Tobacco --- Not Good for the Nose, Either

We already know about the damage tobacco can cause our
lungs, our gums, and our skin: testing in Mexico suggests that
the stuff can also clog up our noses.

In 2011, a team of scientists in Mexico led by Dr. Kathrine
Jáuregui-Renaud at the National Medical Center in Mexico  
assessed how environmental exposure to tobacco affected
"nasal resistance" in young patients with allergic rhinitis.  The
data from fifty patients between 10 and 19 years old showed
that "in young patients with perennial allergic rhinitis, exposure
to tobacco smoke can be related to increased nasal resistance."
Note that these young patients weren’t necessarily smoking
themselves: if anyone in your family smokes, or you are
frequently around smokers, it could be what won’t stop your
nose from running.

What Does Running Lava Have to Do With A Runny Nose?
Volcanoes and Nasal Congestion

Volcanoes are dangerous formations: we could fall into them,
we could be singed by lava, and from time to time it could
explode all over large populations of people.  Well, here’s
another scary trait of the mighty volcano: it could give us nasal

In 2008, a team of Oregon State University and Nevada,
including B.M. Longo with the Orvis School of Nursing in Reno,  
investigated cardiorespiratory health effects related to "chronic
exposure to volcanogenic sulphur dioxide" and other air
pollution emitted from the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii.  335 adults
who had lived in the area for seven years or more provided data
on cardorespiratory signs, the results of which revealed
"statistically significant positive associations between chronic
exposure and increased prevalence" of a long list of symptoms,
including cough, phlegm, and sinus congestion.  The team
concludes that "long-term residency in active degassing volcanic
areas may have an adverse effect on cardiorespiratory health in

For those of you currently residing in “degassing volcanic
areas,” you may now have the answer for your seemingly
endless nasal congestion.  For those of you planning vacations,
you may want to consider the terrain before deciding how many
boxes of tissue to pack. (Read more about
lingering health
concerns from volcanic ash.)

Indoor Air Quality and Nasal Congestion

It seems you don't have to live by an active volcano (see above)
for the air quality to stuff up your nose.  

In 2012, Dr. Isabella Annesi-Maesano with the Epidemiology of
Allergic and Respiratory Diseases at the Medical School St
Antoine in Paris, along with a team of researchers from various
French institutions,  analyzed the indoor air quality of six schools
in France and the "allergic and respiratory health" of the
schoolchildren attending.  Results showed that rhino-
conjunctivitis was "significantly associated with high level of
formaldehyde in classrooms," and that the prevalence of asthma
was higher in classrooms having high levels of acrolein, NO2,
and other particles.  Overall, the team reports that "air quality in
classrooms was poor," and was "related to an increased
prevalence of clinical manifestations of asthma and rhinitis in
schoolchildren," conditions of which a runny nose is a significant

We can’t, of course, keep our kids from going to school, or insist
to our bosses that we can’t go to work because of the poor air
quality in the office; perhaps all we can do is remember the pack
of tissues when spending long hours inside of certain buildings.

A Family History of Asthma May Make Your Nose Stuffy

Our genes just won’t leave us alone: they decide our coloring,
perhaps some of our mood swings, and…our prevalence for a
stuffy nose?

In 2011, a team of researchers in Sweden led by Dr. Jonas
Eriksson with the Institute of Medicine at the University of
Gothenburg,  distributed a questionnaire to over 18,000
randomly selected people in West Sweden, gathering data on
allergic rhinitis, asthma, and lower respiratory and nasal
symptoms.  14.9% of people reported nasal congestion, and
19.8% reported chronic nasal symptoms, for which several
hereditary factors were associated, including a family history of
asthma.  The report concludes by identifying family history of
allergy and asthma as a "risk factor" for chronic nasal
symptoms, such as a stuffy nose. (Read more about
attacks and natural remedies that help.)

We can’t pick our parents.  However, we can be aware of our
likelihoods for certain conditions, in order to be prepared to
better deal with them.

Nasal Polyps and Nasal Congestion: Healed by Acupuncture

Nasal polyps are just as unappealing as they sound: they are sac-
like growths where the tissues lining the nose have inflamed.  
Symptoms of nasal polyps include nasal obstruction, reduced
sense of smell, and, no shocker, a runny nose.

Getting rid of nasal polyps is most commonly attempted with
nasal steroid sprays, steroid pills, antibiotics, or even surgery.   
In 2010, a researcher in Australia found a more natural option
for the treatment of nasal polyps and a resulting stuffy nose:

Edwin Yong Miao with the M. Modern TCM Clinic in Melbourne  
encountered an Australian patient with recurring nasal polyps
(he had four surgical procedures but they kept returning: eek!).  
Miao treated the patient with "a Chinese herbal decoction plus
acupuncture."  Results showed that "large amounts of mucus
disappeared," and that recurrence of nasal polyps did not occur
for 3.5 years after the procedure.  

If you suffer from nasal congestion, consider asking your
physician about nasal polyps.  If you do have nasal polyps, and
you have the courage for needles, consider treating the polyps
with acupuncture.  

Sore Throat-Causes and Cures
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes-Lingering Health Concerns Caused by
Volcanic Ash

Asthma Attacks-Top 10 Natural Remedies

Smoking Raises Your Blood Sugar Levels -New Study

Sore Throat -Causes and Cures
Itchy Skin in Children -Natural Remedies
Eczema-Top 10 Natural Remedies
Psoriasis-Top 10 Natural Remedies
Tree Pollen Allergies -Causes and Cures
Hair Dye Allergies -When a Dye Job Goes Bad

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Make a hot drink with apples to clear a stuffy nose
hot toddy can help a stuffy nose
make a hot drink with apples to cure a stuffy nose