Exactly How to Clear Your Nostrils ASAP

Doctors share their #1 tip for nostril-unclogging

It’s that time of year again—the weather is getting colder, which means many of us will get a case of the sniffles in the next few months (if we don't have them already). And let’s be honest: Having a stuffy nose isn’t fun. Between constantly blowing your nose and having a hard time breathing normally, it’s nearly impossible to get a good night’s sleep.

When it comes to treatments, we’ve heard a wide variety of suggestions: neti pots, vitamin C, staying hydrated, the list goes on. But what’s the most effective tip? We spoke to doctors to find out.

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What Causes Nasal Congestion, Anyway?

Nasal congestion is caused by increased blood flow, or fluid, to the lining of your nasal passages, also known as mucosal edema. This narrows the space in the nasal cavity giving a sensation of congestion, Dr. Inna A. Husain, MD, board-certified otolaryngologist, explains.

Congested tissue is also more likely to produce mucus, which can also narrow the space for breathing. It can be triggered by a cold or upper respiratory infection, allergies or by nonallergic triggers such as pregnancy, cold weather and certain medication side effects.

Related: Stuffed up With a Sore Throat? You Probably Have a Cold—Here's Everything You Need to Know About It

The Very Best Tip to Unclog Your Nose

Make nasal saline your friend

“Nasal saline is a specially concentrated salt water and bicarbonate mixture that is sprayed or irrigated into the nares,” says Dr. Husain. “This helps clear out mucus, thin out the mucus that is there, all in a natural way. It is a medicinal wash and helps aid clearance of the nasal passages.”

You can buy nasal saline at your local drugstore, or order it on Amazon here

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Additional Ways To Help Unclog Your Nose

If you need additional nose-unclogging tips, doctors recommend these ones:

1. Sleep with the head of your bed elevated

If you’re congested, keeping your head elevated can help, Dr. Husain explains.

2. Try oxymetazoline

This is an over-the-counter decongestant that can help acute congestion during a cold or sinus infection, but it should not be used chronically.

“I tell my patients three days in a row is the maximum," Dr. Husain says. "Over-use can cause a condition known as rhinitis medicamentosa, which causes rebound congestion that can be really hard to treat."

3. Use over-the-counter nasal strips

These can be used for acute congestion as well to help sleep at night, Dr. Husain states.

4. An ENT evaluation

For persistent congestion, you should consult an ENT, Dr. Husain recommends.

5. Stock your medicine cabinet before experiencing symptoms

Now that we're in the thick of cold and flu season, it’s important to be prepared.

“My medicine cabinet must-have is Theraflu Flu Relief Max Strength, Theraflu’s newest over-the-counter product, says Dr. Jessica Shepherd, MD. "With a blend of cold and flu-fighting ingredients, Theraflu targets your worst symptoms fast, including nasal congestion, sore throat, headache, body ache, fever, and sinus congestion." 

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5. Live a healthy lifestyle

In addition to nasal congestion-focused tips, it’s crucial to prioritize your overall health and wellness.

“These tips may sound simple, but it’s important to stay hydrated and make sure you’re getting enough rest and it’s important to eat healthy and nutritious foods—especially during peak cold and flu season, when we may be more susceptible to illness,” says Dr. Shepherd.

Next up: The Right Over-the-Counter Medicine to Buy for Your Cold