Introducing: Ask a Doctor
At UTHSC ENT, we understand that patients need clear, helpful answers to their questions. We also know that a flood of new information can be overwhelming.
That’s why our department’s introducing Ask a Doctor: an ongoing series of posts that tackle Frequently Asked Questions about common issues. We hope these articles give you a better understanding of your situation and an easy path to treatment.
Today, let’s talk about nasal obstruction!
Prepared by: David Templeton
Reviewed by: Dr. Sanjeet Rangarajan
First, what is nasal obstruction?
Nasal obstruction is extremely common, especially in the Mid-South. Also referred to as a blocked nasal passage or even “stuffy nose”, nasal obstruction is a symptom which can be caused by numerous nasal and sinus disorders, all which cause difficulty in breathing through the nose.
Causes and symptoms
Typically, nasal obstruction is caused by either a disorder or an anatomical and/or physiological abnormality.
Disorders that can result in nasal obstruction include: rhinitis (inflammation and swelling of the mucus layer in the nose), allergies (including allergic reactions), nasal polyps, infection, medication use, foreign objects in the nose, deviated septum, nostril abnormality, et al.
The most common symptom of nasal obstruction is congestion (and in fact, these words are sometimes used interchangeably). Congestion can include the feeling of fullness in the head/sinuses, stuffiness, pressure in the face, and blockage of the nose. Congestion can improve throughout the day, with change in position, or with removal of irritating stimuli.
Other symptoms include:
–Diminished sense of smell/taste
One of the most used at home remedies for congestion is the use of a nasal irrigation/rinse device. These devices are FDA approved and use saltwater in a device similar to a teapot or squeeze bottle in order to clean and rinse out the nose.
Other simple solutions for nasal obstruction include OTC (over the counter) decongestants, humidifier/vaporizer, and drinking plenty of fluids. In an adult, if an object is stuck in the nasal passage and can be visualized, an attempt to remove the object with fingers or a pair of tweezers can be made.
Any treatment option should resolve the underlying issue on a case-by-case basis.
Generally, medical treatment with a nasal steroid spray or other medications is a common first-line option for patients who are experiencing obstruction related to allergic or non-allergic rhinitis. The treatments for nasal obstruction are as wide-ranging and diverse as the disorders which cause the symptoms!
When should you call a doctor?
Make an appointment to see your doctor if your symptoms last longer than ten days. Also, call if your symptoms worsen, if you develop a yellow-green mucus, or if you notice blood in your mucus.
Consult your doctor about additional ways to manage your obstruction and to discover the underlying reason for your obstruction. If a foreign body is noticed to be stuck in the nasal passage of a child, consult a physician for help in dislodgement to prevent further complication.