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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 one medicine. Ask your health care provide which cold medications are safe for you

If you have allergies:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your doctor for any of the following:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

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

Test that may be done include:

References

Bachert C, Gevaert P, van Cauwenberge P. Nasal polyps and rhinosinusitis. In: Adkinson NF Jr, ed. Middleton’s Allergy: Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 56.

Orban NT, Saleh H, Durham SR. Allergic and non-allergic rhinitis. In: Adkinson NF Jr, ed. Middleton’s Allergy: Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 55.

Manning SC. Medical management of nasosinus infectious and inflammatory disease. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund LJ, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2010:chap 50.


Review Date: 8/12/2013
Reviewed By: Ashutosh Kacker, MD, BS, Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Associate Attending Otolaryngologist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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