Nasal Congestion

MedicineNet - Nasal Congestion

Symptom Checker: Symptoms & Signs Index

Medical Author:

Related
Symptoms & Signs

Nasal congestion, or "stuffy nose," is a term that refers to the obstruction to the flow of air in and out of the nose. In contrast, the term "runny nose" refers to a discharge (fluid) coming from the nasal passages. Nasal congestion most commonly is the result of inflammation and swelling of the lining tissues of the nasal passages and sinuses. Less commonly, anatomical obstructions (for example, a deviated nasal septum, foreign bodies) may lead to nasal congestion. Prolonged use of certain nasal decongestant sprays or drops can lead to a worsening of nasal congestion. Rarely, tumors of the nasal passages or chronic medical conditions may be the cause of nasal congestion.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/1/2012

Health concern on your mind? Visit the Symptom Checker.

REFERENCE:

Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008.

Causes of Nasal Congestion
    • Allergy (Allergies) An allergy refers to a misguided reaction by our immune system in response to bodily contact with certain foreign substances. ...learn more »
    • Chronic Rhinitis and Post-Nasal Drip Allergic rhinitis symptoms include an itchy, runny nose, sneezing, itchy ears, eyes, and throat. Seasonal allergic rhinitis (also...learn more »
      In This Article
      Chronic Rhinitis and Post-Nasal Drip Article
      • Chronic rhinitis and post-nasal drip facts
      • What is the purpose of the nose?
      • What are rhinitis and post-nasal drip?
      • What causes rhinitis?
      • Is rhinitis always related to allergies?
      • What conditions cause an abnormal production of nasal secretions?
      • What conditions cause an impaired clearance of nasal secretions?
      • How can chronic rhinitis and post-nasal drip be treated?
      • What medications can be used to treat rhinitis and post-nasal drip?
      • What can be used to treat non-allergic rhinitis?
      • Does salt water have any role in the treatment of rhinitis and post-nasal drip?
      • What are other options for the treatment of rhinitis and post-nasal drip?
      • Terminology
    • Cluster Headaches The term cluster headache is a type of headache that recurs over a period of time. There are episodes that last one to three...learn more »
      In This Article
      Cluster Headaches Article
      • What are cluster headaches?
      • Who gets cluster headaches?
      • What are the symptoms and signs of cluster headaches?
      • What causes cluster headaches?
      • What triggers cluster headaches?
      • How are cluster headaches diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for cluster headaches?
      • Can cluster headaches be prevented?
      • What is the prognosis for cluster headaches?
    • Common Cold The common cold (viral upper respiratory tract infection) is a contagious illness that may be caused by various viruses. Symptoms...learn more »
      In This Article
      Common Cold Article
      • Common cold facts
      • What is the common cold, and what causes it?
      • How is the common cold transmitted?
      • What are risk factors for acquiring the common cold?
      • What are the symptoms and signs of the common cold in adults, children, and infants?
      • Does it have anything to do with exposure to cold weather?
      • What is the difference between the common cold and influenza (the flu)?
      • How do physicians diagnose the common cold?
      • What is the treatment for the common cold? Are there any home remedies for the common cold?
      • Are antibiotics a suitable treatment for the common cold?
      • When should a health-care professional be consulted?
      • What is the prognosis for the common cold?
      • What are complications of the common cold?
      • Is it possible to prevent the common cold?
    • Cystic Fibrosis Cystic fibrosis is a disease of the mucus and sweat glands. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease. The outcome of the disease...learn more »
      In This Article
      Cystic Fibrosis Article
      • Cystic fibrosis facts*
      • What is cystic fibrosis?
      • What are other names for cystic fibrosis?
      • What causes cystic fibrosis?
      • Is cystic fibrosis inherited?
      • Who is at risk for cystic fibrosis?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of cystic fibrosis?
      • How is cystic fibrosis diagnosed?
      • How is cystic fibrosis treated?
      • Living with cystic fibrosis
      • What is the outlook for cystic fibrosis?
    • Deviated Septum A deviate septum is a condition in which the bone and cartilage that divide the nasal cavity of the nose in half (nasal septum)...learn more »
      In This Article
      Deviated Septum Article
      • Deviated septum facts
      • What is the definition of deviated septum?
      • What are the causes of deviated septum?
      • What are the symptoms of deviated septum?
      • How is deviated septum diagnosed?
      • How is deviated septum treated?
      • When should I see a doctor about a deviated septum?
      • Can deviated septum be prevented?
    • Drug Abuse Drug addiction is a chronic disease that causes drug-seeking behavior and drug use despite negative consequences to the user and...learn more »
      In This Article
      Drug Abuse Article
      • Drug abuse and addiction facts
      • What is drug abuse?
      • What is drug addiction?
      • What types of drugs are commonly abused?
      • What are the physical and psychological effects of drug abuse and addiction?
      • What are causes and risk factors for drug abuse and addiction?
      • What are symptoms and signs of drug abuse and addiction?
      • What happens to your brain when you take drugs?
      • How is drug addiction diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for drug addiction?
      • What are complications of drug addiction?
      • What is the prognosis of drug addiction?
      • Can drug abuse and addiction be prevented?
      • Where can people get help for drug abuse or addiction?
    • Flu (Influenza) Influenza (flu) is a respiratory illness caused by a virus. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache,...learn more »
      In This Article
      Flu (Influenza) Article
      • Flu (influenza, conventional, H1N1, H3N2, and bird flu [H5N1]) facts
      • What is influenza?
      • What are the causes of the flu?
      • What are flu symptoms in adults and in children?
      • How is the flu diagnosed?
      • What is the key to flu prevention?
      • Are there any flu shot or nasal spray vaccine side effects in adults or in children?
      • Why should the influenza vaccine be taken every year?
      • What are some treatments an individual can do at home for the flu?
      • When should a person go to the emergency department for the flu?
      • Who should receive the flu vaccine, and who has the highest risk factors? When should someone get the flu shot?
      • What is the prognosis (outlook) and complications for patients who get the flu?
      • What is the bird (avian) flu?
      • Do antiviral agents protect people from the flu?
      • Is it safe to get a flu shot that contains thimerosal?
      • Where can I find additional information about the flu?
    • German Measles (Rubella) German measles is a disease that's caused by a virus. Symptoms include rash and fever for two to three days. The MMR (measles,...learn more »
      In This Article
      German Measles (Rubella) Article
      • What is rubella (German measles)?
      • What are rubella symptoms and signs?
      • What are the complications of rubella?
      • How is rubella spread from person to person?
      • Can rubella be prevented with a vaccine?
      • Does my child need the rubella vaccine (MMR)?
      • As an adult, do I need the rubella vaccine (MMR)?
    • Hay Fever Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is an irritation of the nose caused by pollen and is associated with the following allergic...learn more »
      In This Article
      Hay Fever Article
      • Hay fever facts*
      • What is hay fever? What are the symptoms and signs?
      • Why does an allergic reaction occur?
      • What causes allergic rhinitis?
      • When and where does allergic rhinitis occur?
      • How is allergic rhinitis diagnosed, and how are allergies identified?
      • How are allergies treated?
    • Measles Measles (rubeola) is a highly contagious disease that's caused by a virus. Symptoms include a rash, high fever, cough, runny...learn more »
      In This Article
      Measles Article
      • Measles facts
      • What is measles?
      • What is rubeola?
      • What is rubella?
      • What are other names for measles?
      • What is the history of measles?
      • What causes measles?
      • How is measles spread?
      • How does one become immune to measles?
      • Who is at risk for getting measles?
      • Is measles deadly?
      • What is the danger of getting measles while pregnant?
      • If I am exposed, how long does it take to develop symptoms and signs?
      • What are measles symptoms and signs?
      • What complications are seen with measles?
      • What is atypical measles?
      • What is modified measles?
      • How is the diagnosis of measles made?
      • If it is not measles, what else could it be?
      • What should I do if I have been exposed to measles?
      • Is there any treatment for measles after symptoms and signs develop?
      • If measles only rarely occurs in the United States, why should I get vaccinated?
      • Do I need to be revaccinated against measles if I am traveling to Europe?
      • What is the prognosis for measles?
      • How can I prevent contracting measles?
      • Is there any truth to the fear of getting autism from vaccines?
      • Who should not receive measles vaccinations?
      • If a child has an egg allergy, can they still receive the measles vaccine?
      • What adverse reactions can occur with the measles vaccination?
      • Who should be revaccinated against measles?
      • Where can I find more information about measles?
    • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a highly contagious viral infection. Symptoms include fever and nasal congestion and...learn more »
      In This Article
      Respiratory Syncytial Virus Article
      • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection facts
      • What is the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)?
      • When does RSV infection occur, and who gets it?
      • Who is at risk for severe disease?
      • Is RSV infection contagious, and how is RSV infection transmitted?
      • What are the symptoms of RSV infection?
      • How is RSV infection diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for an RSV infection?
      • How can RSV infection be prevented?
      • Is there an RSV vaccine?
      • What is the prognosis of an RSV infection?
    • Sinus Infection (Sinusitis) Sinus infection (sinusitis) signs and symptoms include headache, fever, and facial tenderness, pressure, or pain. Treatments of...learn more »
    • Sleep Apnea Sleep apnea is defined as a reduction or cessation of breathing during sleep. The three types of sleep apnea are central apnea,...learn more »
      In This Article
      Sleep Apnea Article
      • Sleep apnea facts
      • What is sleep apnea?
      • What are the types of sleep apnea?
      • What is central sleep apnea and what causes it?
      • What is obstructive sleep apnea and what causes it?
      • How common is obstructive sleep apnea?
      • What are obstructive sleep apnea symptoms?
      • What are some of the complications of sleep apnea?
      • How is obstructive sleep apnea diagnosed and evaluated?
      • What are the nonsurgical treatments for obstructive sleep apnea?
      • What are the surgical treatments for obstructive sleep apnea?
      • Why is it important to treat obstructive sleep apnea?
    • Smoking (How to Quit Smoking) Smoking is an addiction. More than 430,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. from smoking related illnesses. Secondhand smoke or...learn more »
      In This Article
      Smoking (How to Quit Smoking) Article
      • Smoking and quitting smoking facts
      • What problems are caused by smoking?
      • What is addictive disease and why is smoking considered an addictive disease?
      • What are the signs of cigarette addiction?
      • Why should someone quit smoking?
      • What are the steps in quitting?
      • Getting ready to quit smoking
      • On the day you quit smoking
      • Staying quit
      • What methods can help a person quit smoking?
      • Behavioral modification and self-help literature to quit smoking
      • Nicotine replacement therapy to quit smoking
      • What prescription products are available for smoking cessation?
      • How are nicotine-containing products used safely?
      • What is in the future for smoking?
    • Swine Flu Novel H1N1 influenza A virus infection (swine flu) is an infection that generally is transferred from an infected pig to a human,...learn more »
      In This Article
      Swine Flu Article
      • Swine flu (H1N1 and H3N2v influenza virus) facts
      • What is the swine flu?
      • What causes swine flu?
      • Why is swine flu now infecting humans?
      • What are the symptoms of swine flu?
      • How is swine flu diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for swine flu?
      • What is the history of swine flu in humans?
      • What are the risk factors for swine flu?
      • Can swine flu be prevented with a vaccine?
      • Can swine flu be prevented if the swine flu vaccine (or other flu strain vaccines) is not readily available?
      • Was swine flu (H1N1) a cause of an epidemic or pandemic in the 2009-2010 flu season?
      • What is the prognosis (outlook) and complications for patients who get swine flu?
      • Where can I find more information about swine flu (H1N1 and H3N2v)?
    • Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Whooping cough (pertussis) is highly contagious respiratory infection that is caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. There...learn more »
      In This Article
      Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Article
      • Whooping cough (pertussis) facts
      • What is whooping cough? What is the history of whooping cough?
      • What causes whooping cough?
      • What are risk factors for whooping cough?
      • Can whooping cough be prevented with a vaccine?
      • What are whooping cough symptoms, signs, and stages?
      • How is whooping cough transmitted?
      • Can adults get whooping cough?
      • How is whooping cough diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for whooping cough?
      • What is the prognosis for whooping cough?
      • What are possible complications of whooping cough?
      • Where can people find more information about whooping cough (pertussis)?
Other Causes of Nasal Congestion
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Deviated Nasal Septum
  • Enlarged Adenoid
  • Environmental Irritants
  • Foreign Body in the Nasal Passages
  • Injury/Trauma to the Nose or Sinuses
  • Medications (Overuse of Some Decongestant Sprays or Drops)
  • Nasal Polyps
  • Other Viral Infections
  • Tumors of the Nasal Passages
  • Vasomotor Rhinitis
Examples of Medications for Nasal Congestion
  • cetirizine, Zyrtec, Zyrtec Allergy, Zyrtec Hives
  • chlorpheniramine, pseudoephedrine, Deconamine (Discontinued)
  • diphenhydramine, Benadryl
  • fexofenadine and pseudoephedrine, Allegra-D
  • fexofenadine, Allegra, Allegra Allergy, Allegra Hives, Children's Allegra
  • loratadine and pseudoephedrine (Alavert Allergy & Sinus, Claritin-D, Claritin-D 24 hour)
  • loratadine, Claritin, Claritin RediTabs, Alavert, others
  • pseudoephedrine - oral, Afrinol, Sudafed


Symptoms & Signs A-Z List



Women's Health

Find out what women really need.