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Stuffy or runny nose - adult

Definition

A stuffy or congested nose occurs when the tissues lining it become swollen. The swelling is due to inflamed blood vessels.

The problem may also include nasal discharge or "runny nose." If excess mucus runs down the back of your throat (postnasal drip), it may cause a cough or sore throat.

Alternative Names

Nose - congested; Congested nose; Runny nose; Postnasal drip; Rhinorrhea: nasal congestion

Causes

A stuffy or runny nose may be caused by:

The congestion typically goes away by itself within a week.

Congestion also can be caused by:

Home Care

Finding ways to keep mucus thin will help it drain from your nose and sinuses and relieve your symptoms. Drinking plenty of clear fluids is one way to do this. You can also:

A nasal wash can help remove mucus from your nose.

Congestion is often worse when lying down. Keep upright, or at least keep the head elevated.

Some stores sell adhesive strips that can be placed on the nose. These help widen the nostrils, making breathing easier.

Medicines you can buy at the store without a prescription can help your symptoms.

Many cough, allergy, and cold medicines you buy have more than one medicine inside. Read the labels carefully to make sure you don't take too much of any 1 medicine. Ask your provider which cold medicines are safe for you

If you have allergies:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider for any of the following:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider may perform a physical exam that focuses on the ears, nose, throat, and airways.

Tests that may be done include:

References

Bachert C, Calus L, Gevaert P. Rhinosinusitis and nasal polyps. In: Adkinson NF, Bochner BS, Burks AW, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 43.

Corren J, Baroody FM, Pawankar R. Allergic and nonallergic rhinitis. In: Adkinson NF, Bochner BS, Burks AW, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 42.


Review Date: 8/14/2015
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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