A stuffy or congested nose occurs when the tissues lining it become swollen. The swelling is due to inflamed blood vessels.
The problem may also include nasal discharge or "runny nose." If excess mucus runs down the back of your throat (postnasal drip), it may cause a cough or sore throat.
Nose - congested; Congested nose; Runny nose; Postnasal drip; Rhinorrhea; Nasal congestion
A stuffy or runny nose may be caused by:
The congestion typically goes away by itself within a week.
Congestion also can be caused by:
Finding ways to keep mucus thin will help it drain from your nose and sinuses and relieve your symptoms. Drinking plenty of clear fluids is one way to do this. You can also:
A nasal wash can help remove mucus from your nose.
Congestion is often worse when lying down. Keep upright, or at least keep the head elevated.
Some stores sell adhesive strips that can be placed on the nose. These help widen the nostrils, making breathing easier.
Medicines you can buy at the store without a prescription can help your symptoms.
Many cough, allergy, and cold medicines you buy have more than one medicine inside. Read the labels carefully to make sure you don't take too much of any one medicine. Ask your provider which cold medicines are safe for you.
If you have allergies:
Contact your provider for any of the following:
Your provider may perform a physical exam that focuses on the ears, nose, throat, and airways.
Tests that may be done include:
Bachert C, Zhang N, Gevaert P. Rhinosinusitis and nasal polyps. In: Burks AW, Holgate ST, O'Hehir RE, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 41.
Corren J, Baroody FM, Togias A. Allergic and nonallergic rhinitis. In: Burks AW, Holgate ST, O'Hehir RE, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 40.
Cohen YZ. The common cold. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 58.
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.