Nasal congestion

Nasal congestion

Nasal congestion is a condition when air cannot enter smoothly into the nose, thus interfering with the breathing process. This condition can also be accompanied by a runny nose.

A blocked nose is a symptom of a disease, such as sinusitis . This condition can occur with different levels of severity. Therefore, nasal congestion requires different treatments, depending on the severity and the underlying cause.

It should be known that nasal congestion is one of the symptoms that can be experienced by patients with COVID-19. Therefore, if you or people around you experience nasal congestion, especially accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, it is best to check with a doctor to ascertain the cause.

Causes of Nasal Congestion

Nasal congestion occurs when the inner lining of the nose is swollen due to irritation or inflammation. The causes can vary and can occur suddenly (acute) or gradually over the long term (chronic).

Some of the causes of acute nasal congestion are:

1. Viral infection

Viral infections, such as the common cold, influenza, COVID-19, or acute sinusitis, can cause nasal congestion. In COVID-19, nasal congestion can last for 2-3 weeks.

In addition, with the common cold or influenza, nasal congestion only lasts for a few days. Meanwhile, nasal congestion in acute sinusitis can last almost 4 weeks.

2. Allergic rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis or hay fever is an inflammation that occurs in the nasal cavity due to an allergic reaction. This condition is the most common cause of nasal congestion.

Nasal congestion due to allergic rhinitis can last 2-3 weeks.

3. Vasomotor rhinitis

Vasomotor rhinitis , or non-allergic rhinitis, is an inflammation of the nasal passages that can occur due to weather changes, exposure to strong smells, exposure to smoke, and the consumption of spicy or hot foods. This condition causes the blood vessels in the nose to widen so that the nasal wall swells and causes nasal congestion.

4. Foreign objects

Foreign objects can enter the nose , especially in children. Foreign objects that enter the nose can irritate the nostrils. As a result, the nostrils become swollen and watery, causing complaints of nasal congestion in children . Try to overcome this condition by removing foreign objects using tweezers, doing a mother's kiss , or taking the child to the nearest doctor.

Meanwhile, the causes of chronic nasal congestion include:

1. Chronic sinusitis

Chronic sinusitis is inflammation of the sinuses for 12 weeks or more. This condition prevents the fluid in the nose from flowing, causing the nose to become blocked.

2. Nasal polyps

Nasal polyps are abnormal tissue growths in the nasal passages. This abnormal tissue usually arises as a result of continuous nasal inflammation. This condition causes nasal congestion that can occur for up to 12 weeks.

3. Deviation of the septum

Deviation of the septum is a condition when the dividing wall of the nasal cavity undergoes a shift so that one of the nostrils narrows. In this condition, the severity of nasal congestion depends on the degree of displacement of the nasal septum.

4. Churg-Strauss syndrome

Churg-Strauss syndrome is a rare condition in the form of inflammation in the blood vessels of organs, one of which is in the nose, so allergic rhinitis can occur.

5. Wegener's granulomatosis

Wegener's granulomatosis is a rare condition. This condition can cause blood flow to certain organs, such as the nose, sinuses, throat, lungs, and kidneys, to slow down. As a result, the work of these organs becomes disturbed.

6. Nasopharyngeal cancer

Nasopharyngeal cancer is cancer that attacks the nasopharynx, which is the part of the throat behind the nasal cavity. One of the symptoms that can be caused by nasopharyngeal cancer is nasal congestion.

Risk factors for nasal congestion

A blocked nose can happen to anyone, but there are several risk factors that can increase someone experiencing the condition, namely:

  • Consuming certain medications, such as hypertension medications or over-the-counter nasal decongestants
  • Breathe dry air
  • Experiencing swelling of adenoid glands, which are glands located in the tonsils
  • is pregnant
  • Suffering an injury to the nose
  • Suffering from asthma
  • Smoking
  • Suffering from thyroid disease

Symptoms of Nasal Congestion

A stuffy nose is a symptom of a condition or disease. Nasal congestion can be accompanied by other symptoms, such as:

  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Sneeze
  • Itchy nose
  • Pain in the face
  • Headache
  • Anosmia (loss of smell)

When should you go to the doctor?

See a doctor immediately if you experience any of the following conditions:

  • Nasal congestion for more than 10 days
  • Nasal congestion accompanied by fever for more than 3 days
  • Nasal mucus smells and changes color from yellowish white to grayish green
  • Nasal mucus mixed with blood
  • The throat feels sore and there are white or yellow spots in the throat
  • Nasal congestion accompanied by visual disturbances and swelling in the area of ​​the eyebrows, eyes, sides of the nose, or cheeks
  • A stuffy, runny, or bloody nose after an injury to the nose

You also need to see a doctor immediately if you experience a blocked nose while suffering from asthma, emphysema, or diseases that weaken the body's immunity.

Diagnosis of Nasal Congestion

The doctor will ask about the complaints and symptoms that appear, the medicines consumed, and the patient's health history. Next, the doctor will perform a physical examination that focuses on the nose, ears, and throat.

If the cause of nasal congestion is unknown or the symptoms do not improve after treatment, then the patient will be referred to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist . The examination performed by an ENT doctor can be in the form of:

  • Allergy test , to detect an allergic reaction to a certain substance or object.
  • Sputum culture or nose and throat swab culture, to detect the presence of viruses or bacteria.
  • Nasoendoscopy, to see conditions inside the nose using a small tube with a camera.
  • Scanning with a CT scan or MRI , to see the inside of the nose if the nasoendoscopy procedure cannot detect the cause.

Nasal Congestion Treatment

Nasal congestion treatment based on severity and cause. The treatment method is as follows:


Nasal congestion is usually overcome by giving medicines, both over-the-counter and prescription medicines . However, patients are advised to consult a doctor first before using the medicine.

Types of medicines that can be used to overcome nasal congestion include:

  • Decongestants
    Medicines of this group relieve swelling in the nasal passages and relieve pressure on the nose. Decongestants are available in spray and drink form. Some examples of decongestants are phenylephrine , pseudoephedrine , and oxymethazoline .
    Oral decongestants should not be used for more than 1 week. Meanwhile, the use of decongestant spray should not exceed 3 days, as it has the potential to worsen nasal congestion.
  • Antihistamines
    Antihistamines are used for nasal congestion caused by allergies. The use of antihistamines is recommended at night before going to bed, because this medicine can cause drowsiness.
  • Pain
    relievers Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol , can be used to ease the headache symptoms that can accompany nasal congestion.
    It is important to remember that children under the age of 4 are not recommended to use over-the-counter medicines in shops or pharmacies. In addition, the use of medicine must also be in accordance with the rules of use written on the packaging and the doctor's instructions.


If the stuffy nose cannot be overcome with medication, then the doctor may recommend surgery. Some types of operations that are generally performed are:

  • Septoplasty , to correct a septum that is not straight or bent (septal deviation
  • Sinusitis surgery, to overcome inflammation in the sinuses
  • Adenoidectomy , to remove the gland behind the nose and live polyps

Self care at home

Patients are also encouraged to do treatment at home. This self-care aims to keep the airways moist, because dry airways will worsen nasal congestion.

Some nasal congestion treatments that can be done are:

  • Using air humidifiers and steam generators for the nose
  • Inhale the warm steam
  • Drink enough water
  • Sticking a wet and warm towel on the face
  • Elevate the pillow when sleeping
  • Avoid swimming in pools that use chlorine

Complications of Nasal Congestion

Complications that can occur as a result of nasal congestion depend on the cause. If the cause is the common flu, the complications that can arise are otitis media , especially in babies and children.

In patients with COVID-19, nasal congestion can be accompanied by anosmia . This can reduce appetite. In addition, nasal congestion can also cause snoring and insomnia .

Prevention of Nasal Congestion

As with treatment, prevention of nasal congestion is also tailored to the cause. In blocked noses caused by viral infections, prevention is done by vaccination and maintaining the body's immunity.

Some of the efforts below can also be done to take care of health in general:

  • Maintain hygiene and always wash hands with soap and water after activities.
  • Consume a balanced nutritious diet, drink enough water, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.
  • Reduce the consumption of alcoholic beverages and do not smoke.
Back to blog