Anything that irritates the inside of the nose can cause a stuffy nose. Infections — such as colds, flu or sinusitis — and allergies often cause stuffy and runny noses. Irritants in the air, such as tobacco smoke, perfume, dust and car exhaust, also can cause these symptoms.

Some people have noses that are stuffy and run all the time without a known reason. This is called nonallergic rhinitis or vasomotor rhinitis.

A polyp, an object such as a small toy stuck in the nose, or a tumor might cause the nose to run from only one side. Sometimes migraine-like headaches can cause a runny nose.

Possible causes of nasal congestion include:

  1. Acute sinusitis
  2. Alcohol
  3. Allergies
  4. Chronic sinusitis
  5. Churg-Strauss syndrome
  6. Dry or cold air
  7. Common cold
  8. Decongestant nasal spray overuse
  9. Deviated septum
  10. Enlarged adenoids
  11. Food, especially spicy dishes
  12. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  13. Granulomatosis with polyangiitis
  14. Hormonal changes
  15. Influenza (flu)
  16. Medications, such as those used to treat high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, depression, seizures and other conditions
  17. Nasal polyps
  18. Nonallergic rhinitis
  19. Object in the nose
  20. Pregnancy
  21. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  22. Sleep apnea — a condition in which breathing stops and starts many times during sleep.
  23. Thyroid conditions
  24. Tobacco smoke

Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.

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March 02, 2023