Nasal Congestion

Nasal congestion or a ‘blocked nose’ as we commonly call it is a disorder which occurs when tissues and blood vessels lining the nose become inflamed and swollen, producing excess mucus. This gives rise to a stuffy feeling, which can be quite an annoyance for both adults and children. While nasal congestion just causes discomfort for adults and older children, a blocked nose in infants can be serious as it hinders their ability to breathe and nurse. 

Like the cough, nasal congestion is not a disease in itself, but is rather a symptom of another disorder which can cause inflammation of the nasal tissues. Diseases due to infections, such as sinusitis, influenza or the common cold, or disorders triggered by allergies, such as allergic rhinitis result in irritation of nasal tissue and consequent blocking of the nose. Besides these, nasal polyps, pregnancy, food allergies, hormonal changes in the body, stress and thyroid problems are other causes of a stuffy nose. Sometimes, excessive use of decongestant nasal sprays can also have a counter effect and aggravate a blocked nose. 
Congestion of the nose is common in cold temperatures, likely because of the accompanying dryness with the cold weather. This makes drier nasal linings more susceptible to getting irritated by foreign material and more likely to get infected. ​​

Nasal congestion due to a minor illness like the common cold or influenza usually cures itself over the course of roughly a week. However, if your nose is blocked for over a week, or you have a chronically blocked nose with frequent episodes of nasal congestion throughout the year, it could indicate an underlying problem which needs to be looked into.​

You may or may not have a runny nose if it is blocked and stuffy. It is also quite easy to identify if your nose feels stuffed and makes it difficult to for you to breathe. Besides that, there are other symptoms of a blocked nose too, such as:

  • Pressure in the sinuses behind your forehead, cheeks and eyes.

  • Uncontrollable sneezing.

  • Watery and itchy eyes.

  • Draining of mucus from the nose into the throat.

  • Interference with sleep, accompanied with snoring in some cases.

  • Mild headache.

While a blocked nose must improve within a week, if your symptoms worsen without any relief for more than a week, it is best to consult with an ENT (Eye-Nose-Throat) specialist at the ENT Service Line of the Aga Khan University Hospital.​​

A blocked nose in an infant must not be ignored. If you suspect that your infant child is having difficulty breathing due to a stuffy nose, you must consult a paediatrician working with the Children’s Hospital Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital to get an expert medical opinion. 

Moreover, if your symptoms persist for over a week, it is also a cause for concern and you must seek professional advice from your doctor. Other warning signs of a blocked nose which need medical attention include:

  • High fever accompanying a congested nose.

  • Bloody or coloured discharge from the nose.

  • Severe difficulty in breathing.

Our staff at the Eye and ENT Service Line is committed to providing you with quality healthcare, striving to make sure your experience at The Aga Khan University Hospital is completely satisfactory. You can discuss your symptoms in complete confidence with your doctor to start a specialized treatment plan for you.​​

Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.​

Your doctor will perform a physical examination of your nose, throat and chest to assess your breathing and check your airways. He/ she will also take your medical history by asking you questions about your symptoms, such as how long you have been having them for, whether your mucus has been coloured, or whether the symptoms are triggered around certain objects or during specific times of the year. This will help the doctor evaluate the extent of blockage of the nose and a possible cause of the congestion.

In addition, you may be asked to get some tests done for further diagnosis. Blood tests, allergy tests, and sputum and throat cultures tests are usually done to help identify the reason behind a blocked nose. X-rays of the chest and sinuses are also diagnostic procedures used to help identify the cause of a blocked nose.  

With multidisciplinary medical care under one roof at The Aga Khan University Hospital these tests can be conducted at The Aga Khan Hospital’s Clinical Laboratories and X-ray exams can be carried out at the Clinical Imaging Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital. From diagnosis, through laboratory tests and your treatment, our committed staff will be there to guide you about any process and procedure.​​

Home treatments prior to taking any medications can significantly reduce the discomfort caused by a congested nose. Propping up your head on pillows, using a humidifier at home (though asthma patients must consult with their doctors before installing a humidifier), saline and/ or decongestant sprays (though decongestant sprays should not be used in excess), drinking plenty of fluids, flushing out mucus with saltwater, breathing in steam from hot water and resting a lot help improve a congested nose.

Besides these, other treatment options include:

  • Anti-histamine medications for a stuffy nose caused by an allergy.

  • Pain-reliever medications.

  • Antibiotics for nasal congestion caused by a bacterial infection.

It is also advised to avoid common irritants such as dust, smoking or furry pets, which can irritate the nasal linings.

Talk with your doctor at Eye and ENT Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital in detail about any treatment to find out how useful it might be.​​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.


The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.​