A stuffy nose, also known as nasal congestion, occurs when nasal capillaries become inflamed or when there is an excess production of mucus. These situations can result in a stuffy nose and can lead to difficulty breathing.
This is normally a symptom of other conditions like the flu, a cold, sinusitis or respiratory allergies. A stuffy nose typically resolves on its own in about 1 week.
Because a stuffy nose is not a significant health crisis, over-the-counter nasal decongestants should only be used under the direction of your doctor. These medications can worsen your congestion due to their rebound effect, and can make your stuffy nose a chronic issue.
Therefore, before using a decongestant, there are other natural options you can try to clear your nose, like:
1. Rinsing your nose with a saline solution
A nasal rinse kit can remove excess mucus and sinus secretions, which can help to clear your nose. Salt-based solutions can help to eliminate bacteria that may be worsening the production of these secretions.
Because it can be slightly uncomfortable, the irrigation kit isn’t usually used for children, and is more practical for adults. The rinsing bottle is placed in one nostril, and the solution is squeezed into one side and comes out of the other nostril. The saline that comes out will help to drain mucus and other impurities present in the nasal canal.
See our step-by-step guide on nasal irrigation to help you perform one at home.
2. Inhaling eucalyptus vapor
Inhaling vapor is generally comfortable, and therefore this method can also be used for children under the supervision of an adult. Vapor can make secretions more fluid-like, and eucalyptus is a natural decongestant, and both of these effects can help to clear a stuffy nose.
To try this method, all you need to do is place 3 drops of eucalyptus in a bowl with 500ml of boiling water, and inhale the vapor for about 5 minutes. You can place a towel over both your head and the bowl to trap the vapor.
3. Humidifying the air
Placing bowls of water throughout the house or using an electric humidifier can help to moisturize the airways and reduce irritation. This can help to relieve discomfort and help with elimination of mucus secretions.
4. Drinking 2 to 3 liters (8 to 12 cups) of water per day
Water can help to be less thick and make it easier to eliminate, even if no other method works. Adequate fluid intake can also be ensured by drinking teas, particularly those with decongestant properties like eucalyptus and mint.
5. Consuming foods rich in vitamin C
Vitamin C is a substance that is known to stimulate and strengthen the immune system, which assists the body to recuperate much quicker from colds and flus (which are the main causes of stuffy noses).
Some foods that are rich in vitamin C include pineapple, orange, lemon or tangerines. Check out our list of high vitamin C foods you can incorporate into your diet.
6. Taking a hot bath or shower
During a hot bath or shower, the vapor from the water can help to make mucus more fluid-like and easier to be expelled. This will help to relieve your stuffy nose.
7. Using a hot towel with mint
A hot towel soaked in mint tea and placed on the face can help to relieve the symptoms of a stuffy nose. It is a natural expectorant, which helps to loosen mucus that is causing discomfort.
8. Massaging your cheek bones
To alleviate your stuffy nose, you can massage your cheekbones and nose with essential oils like peppermint, eucalyptus and lavender for 5 minutes.
How to relieve a baby’s stuffy nose
Stuffy noses in babies are very common due to their narrow nasal canals. A stuffy nose can be very uncomfortable for the baby, as they are unable to relieve their own symptoms to breathe better.
To relieve baby congestion, you can try the following methods:
- Using saline solution to rinse the baby’s nostrils by applying just a few drops or a small spray, and then drawing it out with a nasal aspirator
- Doing a soft facial massage, starting on the top of the nose and rubbing down to the bottom
- Putting a high pillow underneath the baby’s bed cushion to help with breathing
- Doing a nebulizer with 5ml of saline for 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times per day, which will help to loosen nasal secretions
You should not use eucalyptus essential oil in children or babies because it can cause further irritation in the respiratory airways and even provoke bronchitis. If the home environment is very dry, you can use a humidifier in the baby’s room, or even hang a wet towel in the room. You should avoid using bowls or buckets of water in the baby’s room as this can be a safety risk.