Nasal congestion can be caused by anything that irritates or inflames the nasal tissues. Infections — such as colds, flu or sinusitis — and allergies are frequent causes of nasal congestion and runny nose. Sometimes a congested and runny nose can be caused by irritants such as tobacco smoke and car exhaust. This condition is called nonallergic rhinitis or vasomotor rhinitis.

Less commonly, nasal congestion can be caused by a tumor.

Potential causes of nasal congestion include:

  1. Acute sinusitis (nasal and sinus infection)
  2. Alcohol
  3. Allergies
  4. Chronic sinusitis
  5. Churg-Strauss syndrome
  6. Common cold
  7. Decongestant nasal spray overuse
  8. Deviated septum
  9. Dry air
  10. Enlarged adenoids
  11. Food, especially spicy dishes
  12. Foreign body in the nose
  13. Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener's granulomatosis)
  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 (chronic congestion or sneezing not related to allergies)
  19. Occupational asthma
  20. Pregnancy
  21. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  22. Sleep apnea
  23. Stress
  24. Thyroid disorders
  25. Tobacco smoke

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

Feb. 27, 2021

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. Does honey offer sweet relief for allergies?
  25. Does zinc work for colds?
  26. Drug addiction (substance use disorder)
  27. Dust mite allergy
  28. Echinacea: Is it effective for the common cold?
  29. Flu shots
  30. Flu: When to see a doctor?
  31. Food allergies: Labels
  32. Food allergy
  33. Can adults develop a food allergy?
  34. Food allergy or intolerance?
  35. Group B strep disease
  36. Have a cold? Common sense rules
  37. Have a cold? Fight back with humidity
  38. Have a cold? Fight it with fluids
  39. Headaches 101: Know your type
  40. Headaches and hormones
  41. Headaches in children
  42. Headaches: Treatment depends on your diagnosis and symptoms
  43. High-dose flu vaccines: How are they different from other flu vaccines?
  44. How well do you wash your hands?
  45. Humidifier care 101
  46. Humidifiers
  47. Influenza (flu)
  48. Is antibacterial soap a do or a don't?
  49. Infographic: Lung Transplant for Cystic Fibrosis
  50. Medication overuse headaches
  51. Nasal Cleaning
  52. Nasal spray addiction: Is it real?
  53. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
  54. Neti pot: Can it clear your nose?
  55. Neti pot solution: Can I make my own?
  56. Nighttime headaches: Relief
  57. Nonallergic rhinitis
  58. Oil of oregano: Can it treat sinusitis?
  59. Pain Management
  60. Pet allergy
  61. Pet allergy: Are there hypoallergenic dog breeds?
  62. Plugged ears: What is the remedy?
  63. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  64. Rubella
  65. Shellfish allergy
  66. Sinus headaches
  67. Sinus infection and toothache: Any connection?
  68. Stress and headaches: Stop the cycle
  69. Stuffy nose? Try saline spray
  70. Vicks VapoRub: An effective nasal decongestant?
  71. Vitamin C: Can it prevent colds?
  72. Warm-mist versus cool-mist humidifier: Which is better for a cold?
  73. Wheat allergy
  74. Whooping cough
  75. Whooping cough
  76. Do zinc supplements shorten colds?