A stuffy or congested nose can occur when the tissues lining the nose become swollen. The swelling is usually due to inflamed blood vessels. The issue may also include nasal discharge or a “runny nose” as it is more commonly referred to.

If excess mucus runs down the back of your throat (postnasal drip), it may cause a cough or sore throat.

Why does this happen?

A stuffy or runny nose may be caused by: The Common cold

It is called the “common” cold with good reason. There are over one billion colds in the U.S. each year. You and your children may have more colds than any other type of illness in your lifetime. A cold virus spreads through tiny, air droplets that are released when the sick person sneezes, coughs or blows their nose.

You can catch a cold if a person with a cold sneezes, coughs, or blows their nose near you, or you touch your nose, eyes, or mouth after you have touched something contaminated by the virus. Colds are most contagious for the first 2 to 3 days of a cold and is usually not contagious after the first week. Cold symptoms usually start about 2 or 3 days after you come into contact with the virus, though it could take as long a week. Symptoms mostly affect the nose.

The most common cold symptoms are nasal congestion, runny nose, scratchy throat, and sneezing. Adults and older children with colds generally have a low fever or no fever. Young children often run a fever around 100 to 102°F (37.7 to 38.8°C). Depending on which virus caused your cold, you may also have a cough, decreased appetite, headache, muscle aches, postnasal drip, sore throat, flu, or sinus infection. The congestion usually goes away by itself within a week.

Congestion also can be caused by: [Sinusitis]

Sinusitis can occur from one of these conditions: small hairs (cilia) in the sinuses fail to properly move mucus out. This may be due to some medical conditions. Always important to come in to your ENT to get this checked out to be sure. Colds and allergies may cause too much mucus to be made or block the opening of the sinuses. Sometimes, a deviated nasal septum, nasal bone spur, or nasal polyps may block the opening of the sinuses. It is important to come into your ENT to find out your sinus infection causes. There can even be cases of sinus infection permanent hearing loss, so, be sure to get checked out!

Congestion can also be caused by: Hay fever or other [allergies]

“Allergies” are medically known as “Allergic rhinitis.” Allergic rhinitis or allergies is a diagnosis associated with a group of symptoms affecting the nose. These symptoms occur when you breathe in something you are allergic to, such as dust, animal dander, or pollen. Symptoms can also occur when you eat a food that you are allergic to.

When to contact a medical professional

Regardless of the cause of your congestion, it is important to know when it is time to contact a medical professional.

Call your provider for any of the following:

A stuffy nose with swelling of the forehead, eyes, side of the nose, or cheek, or that occurs with blurred vision
More throat pain, or white or yellow spots on the tonsils or other parts of the throat
Discharge from the nose that has a bad smell, comes from only one side, or is a color other than white or yellow
Cough that lasts longer than 10 days, or produces yellow-green or gray mucus
Nasal discharge following a head injury
Symptoms that last more than 3 weeks
Nasal discharge with fever


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