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Congestion (Nasal)

A congested nose occurs when the membranes lining the nose become swollen from inflamed blood vessels. Congestion can be caused by many of the same things that cause a runny nose including colds, sinus infections, and the flu but can typically resolve itself within a week as symptoms improve. Congestion can also be caused by allergies and nasal polyps, which are sac-like growths of inflamed tissue lining the nose.

Nasal congestion in an infant in the first few months of life can interfere with feeding and in severe cases can cause breathing difficulties or affect the ears, hearing and speech development. In adolescents and adults congestion is usually managed with symptom control but significant episodes can interfere with sleep and can cause snoring.

To relieve nasal congestion, the following over-the-counter remedies are available from your pharmacy:

• Decongestants- these may help relieve congestion by shrinking the blood vessels in the lining of the nose. They only help with stuffiness, not a runny nose or other symptoms. Decongestant nasal sprays and drops should not be used for more than 3 days, because then they can make the congestion worse.

• Antihistamines- if the congestion is caused by allergies these may reduce the amount of mucus. Be careful, because some antihistamines make people drowsy.

If a sinus infection is present antibiotics may be prescribed by your G.P to treat the infection and alleviate symptoms

Medicines can make breathing more comfortable, but most are not suitable for young children and may not treat the underlying condition. Other solutions include:

• Congestion is often worse when lying down. Keep upright, or at least keep the head elevated. This is especially helpful for young children.

• The use of saline nasal sprays or drops which can loosen mucus and are often used for babies

• Steam inhalations using eucalyptus oil or menthol

• Drinking extra fluids. Hot tea, broth, or soup may be especially helpful.

If symptoms are recurrent or persistent consult your G.P or pharmacist. As many over-the-counter allergy and cold medicines contain multiple ingredients, always seek advice from your pharmacist on the most appropriate treatment for you.

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