Simple At-Home Remedies for a Stuffy Nose

Posted on March 25, 2024 by Published by

With respiratory infections such as cold, flu, COVID and RSV on the rise, you may be on the search for remedies that can help ease nasal congestion, also referred to as a stuffy nose.

“The most important tip of fighting cold and flu season begins with covering coughs and sneezes and practicing good hand hygiene,” says Amber Schmitz, a nurse practitioner and a Aurora Health Care Quick Care Virtual Health teammate.

Schmitz shares that it’s important to understand the difference between a viral infection versus a bacterial infection. Cold, flu and COVID are all viral illnesses that typically last 7-10 days (about 1 and a half weeks) and go away on their own. Antibiotics treat bacterial infections and cannot help with viral infections. However, at-home remedies can help ease the common symptoms of a runny or stuffy nose.

Schmitz gives the following tips for at-home nasal congestion relief:

  • Drink lots of fluids. Staying hydrated helps to keep mucous thin and loose.
  • Apply a warm, moist compress to your sinuses 4-6 times a day to help with sinus drainage.
  • Use a sterile saline rinse three times a day or nasal saline spray.
  • Try using a cool mist humidifier, which can help with dry air.
  • Elevate your head while sleeping by propping up a few, comfortable pillows. This will prevent pooling of mucous in the sinus passage.

Adults may also follow these additional instructions:

  • Drink warm tea with honey.
  • Gargle saltwater or try throat lozenges for sore throat.
  • Tips for over the counter (OTC) medicines, or those medications that don’t need a doctor’s prescription may include:
    • Take expectorants to thin mucus or phlegm, so it can become easier to blow, cough or spit the mucus.
    • Use nasal spray in each nostril for nasal congestion.
    • If needed, acetaminophen may be taken for fever or aches. Do not exceed 4,000mg in 24 hours.

Before taking any medication, consult with your doctor and thoroughly read and adhere to the label instructions. If you have questions or are unsure about the medication, contact your provider.

For those under 18 years of age, at-home remedies need to be adjusted to the following:

  • Gargle saltwater if the child can follow instructions.
  • Use mentholated rubs over the chest and front of neck. This can help soothe a cough.
  • Throat lozenges may be given to children 4 years and older for a sore throat. It’s important to follow the package instructions and thoroughly watch and remain present while the child consumes the lozenge.
  • Nasal mucus suction devices can help younger children find relief.
  • Honey may also help a cough. Do not give honey to babies under 1 year of age. Schmitz says to follow these recommendations:
    • 1-5 years old: ½ teaspoon
    • 6-11 years old: 1 teaspoon
    • 12 years and older: 2 teaspoons of honey

Consult with your child’s pediatrician before giving any medication. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t give over-the-counter cough and cold medications to children under 6 years of age as these medications can have serious side effects.

Schmitz encourages video visits for minor illnesses like cold, flu or sinus infections since they can be more convenient when you are under the weather.

“With telehealth, it’s important to use common sense,” says Schmitz. “If you think you’re experiencing a medical emergency or having difficulty breathing, dial 911.”

Article contributed by:  Liz Fitzgerald

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