Though the common cold is typically no major threat to your health, it does come along with a variety of uncomfortable symptoms that can interfere with your daily life. Among those, nasal congestion can be one of the most unpleasant and aggravating side effects of a cold. In this article, explore how nasal congestion occurs and the best ways to treat it effectively.
When most people get the common cold, they have a runny nose and often the mucus from their nose becomes thicker. However, contrary to popular belief, it isn't the additional, thicker mucus that causes nasal congestion. In fact, in most cases the congestion stems from swelling in the tissues lining the nasal passages. This swelling comes from blood vessels that have become inflamed in reaction to the cold.
Although a cold is the most common cause of nasal congestion, the flu, a sinus infection or allergies may cause this condition. Despite it being a generally harmless side effect, nasal congestion can interfere with hearing or sleep patterns. In babies and small children, nasal congestion can potentially interfere with breastfeeding or speech development if the condition does not go away within a reasonable period of time.
Nasal congestion generally goes away on its own within a week, but there are several things you can do to either speed up that recovery or to lessen the symptoms of this condition. Those remedies include:
If you continue to have nasal congestion after a week or two, see a doctor immediately since this is an indication that your symptoms are likely the result of something more serious than the common cold. Furthermore, if you experience blurred vision, throat pain, sever coughing episodes or swelling in your forehead or cheeks along with your congestion, see a doctor right away; these may be indications of a more serious condition.
Although there are plenty of cold and nasal congestion remedies available, you should be aware of a couple of treatments that are not effective for most cases of nasal congestion. The first is antibiotics. Remember that the common cold is a virus, so antibiotics (which are intended to kill bacteria) are typically ineffective for treating colds or nasal congestion. Plus, using antibiotics when it's unnecessary could potentially lead your body to foster antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which could be dangerous down the road.
Next, it's important to remember that over-the-counter medications are not suitable for everyone suffering from nasal congestion. The same cold medications that adults use could potentially be harmful to children, so make sure that you do not give these medications to children under four. If your child is a little older than that, it's still a good idea to ask your doctor before administering medication to a young child since the side effects of these medications in older children is still unknown in many cases.