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 nose.
Sounds obvious, but blowing your nose can help to remove mucus from your nasal passages, according to the Mayo Clinic. But instead of just trying to forcefully blast all your mucus out, aim for gentler, more frequent blows.
Use a saline spray.
Saline 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.
Put a washcloth on your face.
Whenever 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.
Take 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 humidifier.
Humidifiers 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 up.
It'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.