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

See also

  1. Acute sinusitis
  2. Acute sinusitis: Do over-the-counter treatments help?
  3. Alcohol intolerance
  4. Allergies
  5. Allergy medications: Know your options
  6. Allergy-proof your home
  7. Aspergillosis
  8. Avoid rebound nasal congestion
  9. Broken nose
  10. Bronchiolitis
  11. Can chicken soup cure a cold?
  12. Chicken soup: Can it treat a cold?
  13. Chronic cough
  14. Chronic daily headaches
  15. Chronic sinusitis
  16. Cluster headache
  17. Cold and flu viruses: How long can they live outside the body?
  18. Cold or allergy: Which is it?
  19. Cold remedies
  20. Cold symptoms: Does drinking milk increase phlegm?
  21. Common cold
  22. Common cold in babies
  23. Cystic fibrosis
  24. What is cystic fibrosis? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  25. Cystic fibrosis FAQs
  26. Does zinc work for colds?
  27. Drug addiction (substance use disorder)
  28. Dust mite allergy
  29. Flu shots
  30. Flu: When to see a doctor?
  31. Food allergy
  32. Food allergy or intolerance?
  33. Group B strep disease
  34. Have a cold? Common sense rules
  35. Have a cold? Fight back with humidity
  36. Have a cold? Fight it with fluids
  37. Headaches 101: Know your type
  38. Headaches and hormones
  39. Headaches in children
  40. Headaches: Treatment depends on your diagnosis and symptoms
  41. High-dose flu vaccines: How are they different from other flu vaccines?
  42. Humidifier care 101
  43. Humidifiers
  44. Influenza (flu)
  45. Infographic: Lung Transplant for Cystic Fibrosis
  46. Medication overuse headaches
  47. Nasal Cleaning
  48. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
  49. Neti pot: Can it clear your nose?
  50. Nighttime headaches: Relief
  51. Nonallergic rhinitis
  52. Pain Management
  53. Pet allergy
  54. Plugged ears: What is the remedy?
  55. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  56. Rubella
  57. Shellfish allergy
  58. Sinus headaches
  59. Sinus infection and toothache: Any connection?
  60. Stress and headaches: Stop the cycle
  61. Stuffy nose? Try saline spray
  62. Vicks VapoRub: An effective nasal decongestant?
  63. Vitamin C: Can it prevent colds?
  64. Warm-mist versus cool-mist humidifier: Which is better for a cold?
  65. Wheat allergy
  66. Whooping cough
  67. Whooping cough
  68. Do zinc supplements shorten colds?