Nothing makes you appreciate being able to breathe quite like having a stuffy nose. When you're stuffed up, you sound like Squidward, you sniffle incessantly, and your nasal passages seem to be plugged for good, no matter how many times you blow your nose.
So, what causes this common and annoying symptom? When you have a cold or virus, chemicals called histamines increase blood flow to your nose and the tissue lining your nasal passages, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology. But when this happens, the tissue inside your nose becomes inflamed and swollen, so there's less room for air to get through, and you feel stuffy. On top of that, your nose makes more mucus when you're sick, so it feels even more clogged.
Luckily there are several ways to thin the mucus in your nose and make it easier to breathe, so we've rounded up the strategies and solutions that actually work. In the meantime, just embrace being a mouth-breather, and know that this will eventually pass. (And if your stuffy nose doesn't go away after 10 days, or if you also have a fever in addition to the sniffles, see your doctor.)
Blow your noseSounds obvious, but blowing your nose can help to remove mucus from your nasal passages, according to the Mayo Clinic. But here's the key: Instead of just trying to forcefully blast all your mucus out, aim for gentler, more frequent blows.
Use a saline spraySaline washes can help get mucus out of your nose, according to MedlinePlus. You can either buy pre-made saline spray from the drug store, or use a neti pot and make your own solution using water, salt, and baking soda. But you shouldn't use saline sprays or irrigation methods for more than 10 days, because some research has shown that too much saline can make certain infections worse over time.
Try eucalyptus oilEucalyptus essential oil is known for its healing properties, and inhaling it may help decrease inflammation in your nasal lining, Medical News Today reports. The publication recommends diluting a few drops of the oil in a pot of boiling water and inhaling the steam to breath easier. You can also use a diffuser — just be careful to only diffuse the oils for 30 minutes at a time. There are some risks involve in continuously diffusing essential oils.
Put a washcloth on your faceWhenever you feel like the mucus in your nose has dried up, apply a warm, damp washcloth over your face. According to MedlinePlus, this will help drain the mucus from your nose, and you can do it several times a day.
Inhale steamTake a hot, steamy shower (or just chill in your bathroom while the water runs) a few times a day; the steam will help to loosen dried mucus in your nose. Some people opt to put their face over a pot of hot water and inhale, but be very careful that the steam itself isn't hot, so you don't get burnt.
Turn on your humidifierHumidifiers are genius because they keep your nasal passages lubricated, which prevents irritation. If you need advice for what kind of humidifier to get for your home and health needs, here's a roundup of some great options.
Keep your head upIt's not your imagination: Congestion tends to feel worse when you're lying down, because the mucus in your nose can't slide down your throat, according to MedlinePlus. In bed or on the couch, prop your head up on a few pillows so it can stay elevated.
Try adhesive stripsYou know those adhesive nose strips that some people use for snoring? Well, the strips help widen your nostrils, which may make it easier to breathe while you have a stuffy nose, according to MedlinePlus. However, if you have chronic problems nose-breathing or if you snore at night, it's a good idea to see your doctor to figure out what's causing it, instead of relying on these nose strips indefinitely.
Take an antihistamineSince histamines are the chemicals that tend to cause stuffiness in the first place, an antihistamine medication reverses this, according to MedlinePlus.
Avoid smokeWhile nursing a stuffy nose, it's important to avoid anything that could irritate your nasal passages further, like cigarette smoke, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other environmental factors, like changes in humidity, can also impact your stuffiness.