What’s actually causing that stuffed-up feeling? When you’ve got a cold or allergies, the membranes lining your nasal passages become inflamed and irritated. They begin to make more mucus to flush out whatever causes the irritation, such as an allergen.
Use these tips to feel better and breathe easier.
When you’re stuffed up, focus on keeping your nasal passages and sinuses moist. Although people sometimes think that dry air might help clear up a runny nose, it actually has the opposite effect. Drying out the membranes will irritate them further.
To keep your nasal passages moist, you can:
- Use a humidifier or vaporizer.
- Take long showers or breathe in steam from a pot of warm (but not too hot) water.
- Drink lots of fluids. This will thin out your mucus, which could help prevent blocked sinuses.
- Use a nasal saline spray. It’s salt water, and it will help keep your nasal passages from drying out.
- Try a Neti pot, nasal irrigator, or bulb syringe. Use distilled, sterile water or H2O that’s been boiled to make up the irrigation solution. Rinse the irrigation device after each use and let it air dry.
- Sit a warm, wet towel on your face. It may relieve discomfort and open your nasal passages.
- Prop yourself up. At night, lie on a couple of pillows. Keeping your head elevated may make breathing more comfortable.
- Avoid chlorinated pools. They can irritate your nasal passages.
These drugs don’t need a prescription and can help tame your symptoms:
Decongestants. These medicines help reduce the swelling in your nasal passages and ease the stuffiness and sinus pressure. They come as nasal sprays, like naphazoline ( Privine), oxymetazoline ( Afrin, Dristan, Duramist), or phenylephrine (Neo-Synephrine, Sinex, Rhinall). They also come as pills, such as phenylephrine (Lusonal, Sudafed PE, Sudogest PE, and others) and pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Sudogest).
Follow the directions for using them. Don’t use a decongestant you take by mouth for more than a week without checking with your doctor. You shouldn’t use a decongestant nasal spray for more than 3 days, or it could make your congestion worse. Never give decongestants or any over-the-counter cold medicine to children under age 4.