Nasal congestion

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Definition

Nasal congestion or “stuffy nose” occurs when nasal and adjacent tissues and blood vessels become swollen with excess fluid, causing a “stuffy” feeling. Nasal congestion may or may not be accompanied by a nasal discharge or “runny nose.”

Nasal congestion usually is just an annoyance for older children and adults. But nasal congestion can be serious for children whose sleep is disturbed by their nasal congestion, or for infants, who might have a hard time feeding as a result.

Causes

Nasal congestion can be caused by anything that irritates or inflames the nasal tissues. Infections — such as colds, flu or sinusitis — allergies and various irritants, such as tobacco smoke, may all cause a runny nose. Some people have a chronically runny nose for no apparent reason — a condition called nonallergic rhinitis or vasomotor rhinitis (VMR).

Less commonly, nasal congestion can be caused by polyps or a tumor.

Potential causes of nasal congestion include:

  • Acute sinusitis
  • Allergies
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Churg-Strauss syndrome
  • Common cold
  • Decongestant nasal spray overuse
  • Deviated septum
  • Drug addiction
  • Dry air
  • Enlarged adenoids
  • Foreign body in the nose
  • Hormonal changes
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Medications, such as high blood pressure drugs
  • Nasal polyps
  • Nonallergic rhinitis
  • Occupational asthma
  • Pregnancy
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • Stress
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s granulomatosis)

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