Nasal congestion or "stuffy nose" occurs when nasal and adjacent tissues and blood vessels become swollen with excess fluid, causing a "stuffy" feeling. Nasal congestion may or may not be accompanied by a nasal discharge or "runny nose."

Nasal congestion usually is just an annoyance for older children and adults. But nasal congestion can be serious in infants, who might have a hard time nursing or breathing as a result.

A stuffy or runny nose is usually just an annoyance. But it can be a sign of a more serious problem, and it may be serious in infants.

Call your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms last more than 10 days.
  • You have a high fever, particularly if it lasts more than three days.
  • Your nasal discharge is green and is accompanied by sinus pain or fever. This may be a sign of a bacterial infection.
  • You have asthma or emphysema, or you're taking immune-suppressing medications.
  • You have blood in your nasal discharge or a persistent clear discharge after a head injury.

Call your child's doctor if:

  • Your child is younger than 2 months and has a fever.
  • Your baby's runny nose or congestion causes trouble nursing or makes breathing difficult.

Self-care
Until you see your doctor, try these simple steps to relieve symptoms:

  • Sniffing and swallowing or gently blowing your nose.
  • If the runny nose is a persistent, watery discharge, particularly if accompanied by sneezing and itchy or watery eyes, your symptoms may be allergy-related, and an over-the-counter antihistamine may help. Be sure to follow the label instructions exactly.
  • For babies and small children, use a soft, rubber-bulb syringe to gently remove any secretions.

Try these measures to relieve postnasal drip — when excess mucus accumulates in the back of your throat:

  • Avoid common irritants such as cigarette smoke and sudden temperature changes.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Use a humidifier.
  • Try nasal saline sprays or rinses.
Mar. 27, 2013