what is a stuffy nose?


If you have a stuffy nose, the patency of one or both nasal passages is reduced or even blocked. This gives a congested feeling, a feeling of shortness of breath and sometimes also pressure on the nose and paranasal sinuses. Smelling and taste disorders, but also snoring while sleeping, sleep apnea and lung disorders are abnormalities that can be related with a stuffy nose.

a stuffy nose

what causes a stuffy nose?



A common cause of a stuffy nose is inflammation. Think of a cold that is caused by viruses. The symptoms often reduce spontaneously once the infection has healed and the nose becomes more accessible. 


Not only the external shape of the nose can determine the patency of the nose. Nasal passage complaints can also be caused by the deviating shape on the inside. A crooked nasal septum (nasal septum), or enlarged turbinates (hypertrophy of the concha), but also polyps (poliposis nasi) in the nose due to prolonged irritation of the nasal mucosa can lead to a blocked nose.

irritants and allergy

The mucous membranes in the nose can be irritated by smoking or prolonged exposure to irritating fumes. A nasal congestion is caused in almost a quarter (25%) of all people by an allergy.

wrong breathing

It is regularly seen that people subconsciously tend to breathe more through the mouth than through the nose (habitual open mouth behavior). This stops breathing through the nose and prevents mucus and dirt from moving through the cilia in the nose to the back of the nose and then being swallowed. As a result, mucus accumulates in the nose, thickens the mucous membrane and clogs the nose even more. This is how you maintain your own nasal congestion with an open mouth breathing!

chronically stuffy nose

With a chronically stuffy nose, someone constantly has complaints of nasal congestion despite various nasal sprays. Often the nasal congestion has developed over years. The nasal congestion can change sides and this is often most affected during exercise or sleeping. 

What to do about a stuffy nose?


First of all, rinsing the nose with a saline solution can help against a stuffy nose. Click here for a rinsing instruction. It can also help to steam. In addition, nasal patency can improve if you force yourself to actively breathe through the nose more often.

The treatment of a reduced nasal passage is of course very dependent on the cause. The following options are available:

In some cases, speech therapy can also be a possible treatment to improve nasal patency and thus reduce nasal congestion.

Which medicine helps against a stuffy nose?


If the nose is blocked by an allergy, anti-allergic medication in combination with a nasal spray and ear drops can help. If there is swelling of the nasal mucosa, an anti-inflammatory nasal spray can help to clear the nose. Xylometazoline nasal spray is not recommended, as it will eventually have the opposite effect on nasal congestion.

What possible conditions can cause a stuffy nose?


A stuffy nose can have many causes, but also lead to many annoying respiratory diseases. In order to achieve a good treatment, a good examination by the ENT doctor is a good starting point for any treatment. Causes of a nasal congestion can be:

When to contact us?


If the advice of the GP has not resulted in any improvement after 4 weeks, it is wise to request a referral to the ENT specialist from the GP. Getting something done about nasal passage complaints in time can often prevent other respiratory problems from developing.

More information

Information from the Dutch Association for ENT Surgery

Information about the nose


Nasal conditions

This patient information has been compiled with the utmost care. It concerns general information. This information is not legally binding. © KNO Medisch Centrum / www.knomc.nl