Treating Stuffy & Runny Noses

Written by
Dr. Chad Ruffin

Dr. Chad Ruffin

ENT Doc and CI Surgeon

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DECEMBER 19, 2021

Treating Stuffy & Runny Noses

The best initial treatment for nasal and sinus issues involves over the counter care. It's highly effective and most patients don't need anything more. Read on!

Allergies and inflamed mucous membranes inside the nose and sinuses can cause a variety of symptoms:

  • stuffy and congested nose
  • sinus infections
  • postnasal drip
  • runny nose
  • decreased smell and taste

The initial treatment of chronic sinusitis, nasal breathing issues, and allergies are all similar. Each of these conditions is often associated with inflamed mucous membranes inside the nose.

So treatment is geared towards decreasing nasal inflammation so that you can breathe better, have less postnasal drip and runny nose, a better sense of smell, fewer infections and sinus attacks, and less of a run-down feeling.

Treatment is a three-pronged approach:

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  1. Nasal saline irrigations such as a Neti-Pot or Neilmed irrigator washes out stagnant mucus. It also washes out allergens such as pollen, pet dander, and dust mites before they have a chance to cause inflammation.
  2. Nasal steroid sprays are very low dose steroids that decrease inflammation.
  3. Oral antihistamines prevent the allergic reaction and inflammation from happening within the immune cells. Both of these are very safe for long term use.

This daily over the counter treatment works really well when done together for a couple of months. So well that half of people need nothing else!

Again, these treatments are best when used daily on a schedule. It is very difficult to keep inflammation down in the long term when they are used only as needed. Remember to ask your doctor when you have a flare up because antibiotics or oral steroids might be helpful.

Warning: Nosebleeds, numbness of the face, and double vision are not signs of run of the mill nasal issues. They are warning signs that need to be evaluated quickly by a doctor.

If this three pronged approach fails to help for a couple of months, make an appointment to see your doctor.

There are other prescription medications that may be helpful. Some of these are antihistamine eye drops or nose sprays. Some people may benefit from allergy testing to guide treatment with allergy shots. A few patients need a combination of medical treatment and surgery to relieve their symptoms.

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