From chicken soup to neti pots to over-the-counter (OTC) medications, there are all sorts of ways to help clear a stuffy nose. Call your doctor if you’ve been congested for more than 2 weeks. If not, use these tips to breathe easier.
Rinse the inside of your nose with a nasal irrigation kit or neti pot to soften, loosen, and wash out mucus and instantly relieve your stuffy head. A neti pot looks like a mini teapot. You can buy it at your local drugstore. While you’re there, pick up some saline solution. Or make it yourself at home. Mix 1 cup of warm bottled, distilled water, a pinch of baking soda, and half a teaspoon of salt. Use the nasal wash 1 to 2 times a day for best results.
Whether it’s from a hot shower or piping hot cup of tea, steam can thin mucus and help it drain from your nose. For faster relief, pour boiling water into a large bowl. Cover your head with a towel, lean over the bowl, and breathe in the steam. You can do this three to four times a day.
Everything you heard about chicken soup is true: It really does help you feel better when you’re sick. Sip a hot bowl to move mucus through your nose faster than plain hot water. It’ll help you feel less stuffy, and it tastes good.
Why do you feel stuffy when you’re sick? Because the blood vessels inside your nose swell and block your airways. Over-the-counter decongestants can shrink these vessels and help you breathe easier. Check the label for the ingredients phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine. Decongestant nasal sprays work the same way. But be careful! Your nose can get even stuffier if you use them for more than 4 or 5 days in a row. Sometimes these products can make you nervous or irritable.
Peppermint and its main active ingredient, menthol, are natural decongestants and may even thin out the gunk in your chest. You’ll find them in many chest rubs and cough drops. You can also drink peppermint tea. Buy it from the store, or make your own: Steep 1 teaspoon of dried peppermint in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes. Drink a cup up to five times a day.