Nasal and sinus congestion affects the well-being and quality of life of millions of Canadians, in both winter and summer. Find out how to relieve it.
What causes nasal and sinus congestion?
A congested nose affects the sound of a voice, the ability to breathe and sleep, as well as comfort and well-being. Most people will experience this typical cold symptom several times a year.
Nasal congestion is generally caused by the presence of excessive nasal secretions combined with the swelling of numerous small blood vessels inside the nose. Thus, nasal passages narrow and become blocked by secretions.
Sinus congestion occurs when there is inflammation that increases the production of mucus in the sinus cavities. This can cause a feeling of pressure in the sinuses and sometimes even a headache, without necessarily having a blocked nose.
This type of congestion can be due to various factors such as:
- allergies (e.g. to pollens, animal hair, mould, etc.)
- a respiratory infection (e.g. colds, sinusitis)
- tobacco use
- exposure to irritating agents in the environment (e.g. cigarette smoke, chemicals, pollution, etc.)
- nasal polyps
What are the medications used to relieve nasal and sinus congestion?
First, an attempt should be made to identify the cause of congestion in order to eliminate it. For instance, in the case of an allergy, exposure to the allergen should be avoided. In the case of a sinus infection, the use of an antibiotic may be considered. In the case of a cold, only time can resolve the problem, as there is no treatment against this type of viral infection (caused by a virus).
Decongestants are the most commonly used medications for nasal and sinus congestion. Most of them are sold without a prescription in oral or topical form. It is important to always speak to a pharmacist before using them. These medications are not suitable for everyone, and their use is not recommended for children under the age of six.
Topical decongestants can be habit-forming when they are used too long. Their use must be limited to a maximum of five consecutive days. Other medications can be used for congestion, depending on the cause. For instance, a nasal corticosteroid spray can be beneficial for people who have seasonal allergies.
What can be done to relieve nasal congestion in young children?
During at least the first year of life, babies are incapable of blowing their noses. This "skill" is generally developed later on. Meanwhile, babies and parents must deal with the harsh reality of a small stuffed-up nose. Nasal congestion can cause a child discomfort in several ways, including by compromising their ability to sleep and eat.
That is why, during early childhood, it is key to ensure that their small noses are clear and that they can breathe freely. Parents must turn to drug-free options to relieve their little one's symptoms.
For additional information about it, read this text.
What are the best drug-free measures?
- Saline solutions are the number one option to naturally relieve nasal and sinus congestion for both young and old. They are found not only in spray-form, but also as droppers, atomizers, single dose ampoules, and even nasal rinses.
- Moisten the air in your home if it is too dry using a humidifier.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Water is the best drink there is if you have a cold. Adequate hydration liquefies secretions and makes it easier to remove them. Hot drinks (tea, lemon herbal tea, hot chocolate, etc.) also promote decongestion. Of course, they are ideal for adults, but can be hazardous for young children. Caution should be exercised.
- Certain products containing natural products are found at the pharmacy to relieve congestion, such as camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oil. Caution: these products also have warnings that require awareness, just like medications. For instance, their use may be inadvisable in babies and small children. Always speak to a pharmacist before purchasing these types of products.
Don't hesitate to speak to your pharmacist for information about nasal and sinus congestion and the ways to relieve it.