Skip to content
Fight the congestion - Nose Care

Fight the congestion - Nose Care

Your Nose is the Guardian of Your Lungs:

Your nose is a vital organ and plays an important role in maintaining the health of your body. It processes the air that you breathe in before it enters your lungs. It is almost unbelievable that close to 10 000 litres of air are being cleaned, humidified and warmed by our nose and sinus membranes every single day. Billions of atoms, chemicals and micro-organisms are removed in the process before they can cause any health issues.

Your nasal protection mechanisms consist of mucociliary clearance (mucous is incessantly being transported backwards and then swallowed) reflex responses such as sneezing, immune reactions (cells that eat up or neutralise microorganisms) and antimicrobial activity when enzymes deactivate viruses or bacteria.

When you breathe through your mouth as a result of heavy exercise or nasal congestion is present as a result of disease, larger amounts of pollutants are then deposited in the lungs because the nasal filter is bypassed.

Sudden exposure to pollutants will lead to irritation of the nose and will in all probability cause tearing, itching, coughing and sneezing – this is due to the nose’s protection system being activated. A runny nose signals the readiness of the nose to flush out the intruders, and this is often associated with sneezing which in turn propels mucous and trapped pollutants from the airway.

Nasal congestion otherwise referred to as “stuffy nose” describes the obstruction of the flow of air in and out of the nasal passages. On the other hand, “runny nose” refers to a discharge of fluid that comes from the nasal passages causing a postnasal drip resulting in a sore throat or cough.

Nasal congestion is usually the result of inflammation and the swelling of the lining tissues of the sinuses and the nasal passages.

A less common cause of a stuffy nose may be due to a deviated nasal septum or as a direct result of foreign bodies in the nasal passages.

The continuous use of nasal decongestants in the form of drops or sprays can actually aggravate congestion as decongestants should only be used for a short period of time to receive the condition and thereafter due to a rebound effect the congestion may become worse. Decongestants are not formulated to be used on a continual basis.

Nasal congestions or “stuffy nose” is a result of the nasal and adjacent tissues and blood vessels swelling up with excessive fluid causing a stuffy feeling. Nasal congestion might or might not be accompanied by a runny nose.

In most instances, a stuffy nose is simply an irritant for adults and older children, but for infants and young children nasal congestion could prove to be problematic and can even cause an interruption in sleep patterns as well as feeding patterns causing great discomfort.

Congestion, in most instances, goes away on its own within a week.

It is vital to pay attention to problems to the nose because the connection between the nose and the lungs is significant.

Keeping the nasal passages clear at all times will reduce or avoid issues in the lungs such as asthma and bronchitis; by ignoring congestion and a runny nose, a thick nasal discharge may form which can lead to lung problems as well as further issues.

When your nose becomes congested you will:

  • Have a reduced sense of smell.
  • Experience dry mouth because of mouth breathing which also pulls pollutants and germs directly into the lungs.
  • As a result you could experience thick secretions which slows the cleaning of the fine cilia and therefore will slow down the passage of oxygen into the bloodstream.
  • Nasal congestion would most probably be responsible for the onset of asthma and if you are already a sufferer, the condition could be aggravated.

There are a number of causes of a stuffy or runny nose

  • The flu.
  • Sinus infection.
  • Common cold.
  • Hay fever and other allergies.
  • The use of certain over the counter nasal sprays and drops – and especially if used for three days or longer which often makes the nasal congestion even worse.
  • Nasal polyps which are sac-like growths of inflamed tissue that line the nose or the sinuses.
  • Vasomotor rhinitis.

It is a good idea to keep the mucous thin as it will assist in draining the sinuses and nose and will relieve congestion.

Drink plenty of water, too, as being hydrated is all-important in keeping your entire body in peak condition, particularly during the winter months.

Home care for that stuffy nose:

  • Steaming always helps – inhale steam every couple of hours but don’t inhale hot steam. Sitting in the bathroom with the shower or bath running with hot water is a great way to steam.
  • Applying a warm towel to the face may relieve a stuffy nose.
  • Humidifiers are always a brilliant investment – this is particularly the case if you have small children or babies.
  • Wash your nose with saline solution a couple of times every day.
  • To make your own saline solution combine a cup of warm water with a pinch of bicarb and a ½ teaspoon of salt.

Remember that congestion is often more problematic when you are horizontal! Keep as upright as possible and try to sleep in a sitting position with your head elevated.

What are decongestants?

  • Choose decongestants that will provide fast, effective and long-lasting relief from congestion caused by allergies, colds and flu.
  • Decongestants contain ingredients that thin the layers of mucous and keep the nasal passages moisturised.
  • Decongestants are medicines that will shrink and dry up the nasal passages and will assist in drying up a runny or a stuffy nose.
  • Speak to your pharmacist or your medical practitioner if you are not sure what decongestants to buy.
  • Using over the counter nasal sprays for longer than three consecutive days is never advisable, unless prescribed by your GP.

How can antihistamines assist?

  • Antihistamines are medicines that are good for treating allergies although take note that some antihistamines can make you drowsy – it is sensible not to drive if you have taken these medications.
  • More often than not cough and cold medicines are a combination of one or more different types of medicine – ensure you don’t overdose yourself by taking a double dose of any one kind of medication.
Previous article Looking after your throat
Next article Treating Cold and Flu