Imagine you’re spending a day outside with your grandkids at the park. They’re having a lot of fun, and you’re getting to take pictures of the precious memories they’re making. All of a sudden, your nose starts running and becomes all stuffy. It can be very frustrating to feel congested, and if you’re feeling bad enough, it can disrupt your daily activities. No one wants to be stuck at home with a stuffy nose while the kids and grandkids are exploring the world! These reasons are why we’ve created this helpful guide to help you determine the most common symptoms associated with nasal congestion and determine its potential cause. We’ll discuss some of the best at-home remedies to relieve nasal congestion and offer you plenty of over-the-counter options that you can keep on-hand for fast relief in situations like these.
What Exactly Is Nasal Congestion?
Before we talk about the most common causes of nasal congestion, let’s look at what nasal congestion is. In short, nasal congestion is a fancy term for having a stuffy or runny nose. It can present itself in several ways in seniors, including:
- The sensation of a runny nose
- The feeling of a plugged nose
- Having an itchy nose
- Prolonged sneezing
- Having what feels like a dry or crusty nose
- Having a slightly red or inflamed nose
You may experience one or more than one of these symptoms. Read on to find information about some most common potential causes of your nasal congestion. *NOTE: If you believe yourself to be sick or coming down with an illness, we suggest seeing a primary care physician to get proper medication.*
Most Common Causes of Nasal Congestion
Usually, when you find yourself stuck with a stuffy nose, you may also realize you exhibit other symptoms of illness too. This is because nasal congestion is a significant indicator that there could be another illness or underlying cause to all of your symptoms. Here are some of the most common reasons that may explain your nasal congestion.
Having acute sinusitis in another way of saying you have a sinus infection. The sinuses inside your nose become swollen and inflamed, causing a buildup of mucus. Sinuses may cause a stuffy nose and some people may not be able to breathe out of their nose if bad enough. People with a sinus infection may also feel like their head is pressurized or have a headache-like sensation.
People can experience a sinus infection at any age, and they usually last a week or two. If you experience high fevers or severe symptoms that last more than two weeks, it would be wise to see a primary care physician.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, is an allergic reaction to allergens that float around in the air. When coming into contact with these allergens, our bodies naturally produce histamine, which can constrict our body’s muscles and cause them to tighten up. Essentially, this is our body’s way of preventing the further spread of the allergens.
These allergens can be pollen, dust, mold, and pet dander. The most common symptoms of allergic rhinitis includes nasal congestion and general irritation of the nose, throat, and eye area. It is not a contagious condition. Symptoms of allergic rhinitis can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, and many people experience hay fever in certain seasons of the year such as the start of spring or summer.
If you think you may have hay fever or seasonal allergies, it is best to contact a physician to get properly tested and medicated.
Geriatric Rhinitis is a condition that is specific to the senior citizen demographic, and is similar to allergic rhinitis. Individuals that have geriatric rhinitis may experience symptoms including:
- A sense of nasal congestion, especially when lying down
- A small, but constant facial pressure
- Lowered sense of smell or taste
- A constant feeling of needing to clear your throat or blow your nose
The older we get, the more sensitive our bodies become to specific allergens, which is the case with geriatric rhinitis. Causes are mainly due to the lowered blood flow in the body, which generally happens as individuals get older. Geriatric rhinitis is usually treated similarly to normal hay fever or allergies.
The Common Cold
According to The Mayo Clinic, the common cold is a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory tract, including the nose and throat. It is caused by many different viruses and is a fairly common occurrence amongst the human population. Hence its name, it is not uncommon for healthy adults to experience the common cold a couple of times per year.
Symptoms of a cold are similar and less severe than flu-like symptoms. Some include:
- A runny or stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
- A sore throat
- Slight body aches
- Feeling tired or more exhausted than normal
- A cough
Generally, if you experience a cold, you won’t need to visit the doctor. However, if your symptoms don’t improve over a week, it may be wise to get a checkup, incase there is something more than a cold.
Influenza, or the flu as it’s commonly called, is caused by highly contagious viruses that infect our respiratory system (nose, throat, and chest). Typically, flu symptoms may be more severe than those of a cold, but embody the same types of things. Some signs you may experience with the flu include:
- Feeling feverish or having the chills
- Extreme nasal congestion (not being able to breathe out of one’s mouth)
- Muscle aches or pains
- Extreme fatigue
- A sore throat
Specific demographics of people may be more likely to get the flu each year, especially those who have weakened immune systems such as adults 65 and older or those who have preexisting health conditions. Flu-like symptoms typically do not require a medical diagnosis and disappear on their own anywhere from 1-2 weeks after infection.
Believe it or not, certain foods increase the chances of someone experiencing nasal congestion. Here are some foods that may fall into that category:
- Dairy: If you consume large amounts of dairy, you may notice the heavy buildup of phlegm as a side effect.
- Foods High in Histamine: Certain foods such as processed meats, chocolate, and fermented food/beverages contain higher-than-normal levels of histamine, which may cause congestion
- Food High in Salicylates: Some people’s bodies may be susceptible to a natural compound found in many nuts, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. If you’re one of those people, you may experience higher than regular nasal congestion.
If you’ve got a lot going on in your personal life, it is natural to feel stressed out. However, prolonged exposure to stress may lead to weakened immune systems, making you more susceptible to colds, flus, and other viruses. People 65 and older may be especially sensitive to this, as peoples’ immune systems generally weaken as they get older.
Top At-Home Remedies to Relieve Nasal Congestion
If you’re not a fan of taking OTC medication (over the counter) for your congestion, you may find some of these at-home remedies helpful.
Drinking Lots of Fluids
Staying hydrated is one way to prevent and lessen the burden of nasal congestion. By drinking a lot of fluids, you’re allowing your body to keep your mucus flowing so it won’t stick in one place for long and make you congested. In general, drinking lots of water combined with other fruit juices allows you to feel better and more alert, which can also help with congestion.
Using a Warm Compress On Your Face
Another thing that will help relieve congestion is using a warm compress for 10-15 minutes. You can use anything from a warm towel to pouch of water as a compress and applying it to your face (make sure it’s not too hot!). The moisture and heat allow the mucus in your nasal passage to clear up and keep moving in your body, therefore clearing up any congestion. If you have severe congestion, it may be best to use a warm compress more than once a day and combine it with other home remedies or medication.
Taking a Shower
Taking a warm shower works the same way as a warm compress. The heat of the water will loosen up everything in your body, including nasal congestion. It may also help get rid of headaches or body aches associated with congestion. And in general, who doesn’t feel better after taking a warm shower?
Using a Humidifier
Using a humidifier can also help you naturally relieve congestion without taking medication. The humidifier makes the air more moisturized, which may help your body flow again if you feel all blocked up. There are many options for humidifiers out there, some of which are larger and are used for a whole room, and others that are portable and meant to be used on a case-by-case basis.
Consuming Spicy Foods
If you are a fan of spicy foods, this tip is perfect for you. Spicy foods contain the chemical capsaicin, which causes a burning sensation when consumed. It activates mucous membranes which results in a runny nose. As a result, you’ll feel cleared up in no time after you consume spicy foods.
Best Over The Counter Medications To Quickly Relieve Nasal Congestion
If at-home remedies aren’t cutting it and you’re looking for long-lasting, instant relief, here are some of our top OTC medication choices that may help you.
Mucinex Chest Congestion Maximum Strength
Mucinex Chest Congestion Maximum Strength is a decongestant that lasts for more than 12 hours, so you won’t have to stop your daily plans because of mucus buildup. It works by making your mucus thinner, so it won’t get caught up and stuck inside your nasal passages. It comes in the form of a swallowed pill and works shortly after consumption. This decongestant works by doing more than breaking up mucus. It helps relieve chest congestion and coughing caused by a heavy mucus buildup. You can find this 42 count of Mucinex for $27.00 on Amazon.
Vicks Personal Sinus Steam Inhaler
Vicks Personal Sinus Steam Inhaler is essentially a tiny and portable decongestant that you can use that works in as fast as 5 minutes. It works by choosing one of three VapoPads to insert into the bottom of the steam inhaler. You can fill the inhaler with any water, select a time of 5-15 minutes, and press a button to activate it. It even comes with adjustable steam control for your comfort. Its ergonomic design allows you to place it on your face without discomfort. You can find this steam inhaler for $47.99 on Amazon.
GoodSense Maximum Strength Nasal Decongestant PE
GoodSense Maximum Strength Nasal Decongestant is another OTC medication we believe is an excellent option for your easy use. It is a cheaper option, coming in at only $5.30. This non-drowsy formula is comparable to Sudafed PE tablets, providing the same decongestant relief for a fraction of the name brand price. You need to take one small tablet every four hours and you’re good to go.
Advil Respiratory Sinus Congestion and Pain Relief Medicine
Advil Respiratory Sinus Congestion and Pain Relief Medicine works in many ways, targeting and reducing nasal swelling/pressure, congestion, headaches, fever, and body aches. It comes in handy portable tablets, so you won’t have to carry a bulky medication package with you wherever you go. It’s great to keep in the car or your purse for when you need one. This non-drowsy formula is meant to be taken every 4 hours, and can be found here on Amazon.
Zicam Extreme Congestion Relief
Unlike our other OTC decongestant options so far, Zicam isn’t a pill. If you have problems swallowing pills, this is the perfect option for you. It is a no-drip nasal spray with aloe vera for comfort. One fast acting spray in each nostril every 12 hours will help relieve your congestion in no time and keep you going all day or night so you don’t have to stop your activities or be bothered by your congestion. You can find the Zicam Extreme Congestion Relief spray for $25.03 on Amazon.
Puriya Chest Rub Cream Support for Congestion and Sinuses
Puriya Chest Rub Cream Support for Congestion and Sinuses is another non-pill alternative to help you get relief from your nasal congestion. In addition to being a decongestant, it also relieves the symptoms of a scratchy throat. It is formulated with all-natural ingredients, including eucalyptus, tea tree oil, lavender, and peppermint. It works by simply rubbing an amount on your chest and spreading it evenly. You can even wear it underneath clothes- it doesn’t stain! You can buy this bottle of balm here on Amazon.
Mucinex Sinus-Max Severe Nasal Congestion Relief
Mucinex Sinus-Max Severe Nasal Congestion Relief is another nasal spray that is meant to be used to relieve many symptoms associated with allergies and nasal congestion. You only need to spray it once in each nostril every 12 hours- this product indeed provides long-lasting relief for little trouble. It also comes in a small bottle, so it is easy to take with you anywhere you go. It’s also fast-acting, so you won’t be waiting long periods of time for it to activate and work. You can find this spray bottle of OTC decongestant for $11.39 on Amazon.
Xlear Natural Saline Nasal Spray
Last but definitely not least is Xlear’s Natural Saline Nasal Spray with Xylitol. It works by being alleviating your congestion, washing away any allergens in your nose, and cleaning/soothing your nasal passage for prevention of further congestion. It works by positioning the precision nozzle in your nose and squirting the product 2-4 times in each nostril, multiple times daily. This is another cheaper option, ringing up at $9.84 on Amazon.
We understand how bad nasal congestion can make you feel, and hope you were able to find some value out of reading this article. Between talking about the different nasal congestion causes, to suggesting many different OTC decongestants, you have all the tools you need to put your congestion to a permanent end and get outside with your grandkids again.