Nasal congestion or stuffiness can be caused by a number of conditions, the most common being the common cold. The common cold is a viral disease that is self-limited. It is frequently associated with a sore or scratchy throat, a low grade fever and generalized symptoms such as malaise and achiness. The congestion associated with the common cold can be treated with decongestants and nasal sprays. Decongestants should not be used in hypertensive persons. OTC nasal sprays should only be used for a limited amount of time, usually about three days. It is important to read the instructions on the packages. If symptoms of a common cold last more than a week, sinusitis may have developed and you should seek medical attention.
Congestion associated with allergy can be very disturbing and may be accompanied by sneezing, post nasal drip and cough. OTC medication is the first line of treatment and includes antihistamines, decongestants and combinations of both. Antihistamines in general do not relieve congestion. Decongestants are helpful but cannot be used if you are hypertensive. Prescription medications are the second line of treatment and include nasal steroids, nasal antihistamines and other drugs such as Singulair. When neither of the above is effective, the third line of treatment, an allergy workup is recommended along with possible immunotherapy (allergy shots).
Nasal congestion can be caused by exposure to irritants and fumes. Some people are very sensitive to changes in atmospheric conditions. Medications, especially those prescribed for hypertension and those containing estrogen, may cause nasal congestion. Some people are very sensitive to certain foods and drinks containing alcohol. If your nasal congestion is unexplained or persists for more than a few weeks, you should seek medical attention.