Common causes for nasal congestion

Whether you’re delivering that ultra-important client presentation or calming the after-school chaos, nasal congestion is not your friend. One minute your nose is running like a broken tap, then the next you can barely breathe through your blocked nostrils. But wait – here comes that pesky cough to add to your misery! So, what is nasal congestion and why does it so often come with a cough?

First, let’s review what normally goes on inside your nose. Your nasal passages and the surrounding air-filled cavities (called sinuses) contain lots of blood vessels. Nerves send signals to these blood vessels to control how much blood they contain, which then regulates the airflow through your nasal passages by helping keep them open wide. Your nasal passages and sinuses also produce mucus to help filter out particles from the air you breathe in.

When you have nasal congestion, inflammation causes these blood vessels to widen, making your nasal passages swell up and block airflow. You can get nasal congestion for a bunch of different reasons, but the most common cause is a viral infection of your upper airways such as the common cold or flu. Nasal congestion can also be a symptom of allergies such as hay fever or exposure to irritants in the air such as dust or smoke.

But how does having a blocked or runny nose make you cough? First of all, the inflammation in your airways caused by an upper respiratory tract infection can make your cough reflex extra sensitive, triggering a dry cough. Secondly, these infections also cause your nose and sinuses to go into overdrive with their mucus production. This excess mucus can further block up your already swollen nasal passages, making your nasal congestion worse, but it can also drip down the back of your throat to trigger your cough reflex. 

Treatment options for nasal congestion

The good news when you’re feeling all blocked and stuffy? Viral infections of your upper airways, such as the common cold, usually clear on their own in about 7 to 10 days. But there are different over-the-counter treatment options available to help relieve your symptoms and help you feel less congested. Look for products that contain decongestants such as phenylephrine. Decongestants work to narrow the blood vessels in your nasal passages to reduce the swelling, helping to relieve nasal congestion. 

And even better news? When your nasal congestion comes with a cough, DURO-TUSS® has you covered to help you switch off your cough and help your nose feel better again. DURO-TUSS PE Dry Cough Liquid Plus Nasal Decongestant contains pholcodine to suppress a nagging dry cough plus phenylephrine to clear a blocked or runny nose. And DURO-TUSS PE Chesty Cough Liquid Plus Nasal Decongestant combines the mucolytic bromhexine hydrochloride with phenylephrine – to clear a chesty cough and relieve a blocked or runny nose.

These medicines may not be right for you. Read the label before purchase. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.

Home remedies for nasal congestion

This one might sound a little strange, but another top tip for helping to reduce nasal congestion is to rinse your nose out with salty water. Really? Yes, really! The fancy term is ‘saline irrigation’, but all it means is to take a very mild saline solution – commonly available from your pharmacy – and gently flush it through your nose and sinuses. This can help get rid of excess mucus and any irritants in your nasal passages, reducing your stuffiness and helping you feel more comfortable.

When to see a medical professional

So nasal congestion and coughs that come with cold and flu typically resolve on their own in a couple of weeks. But remember to always speak with your doctor if you have any concerns about any of your symptoms. You should definitely seek medical advice if:

  • Your symptoms get worse or last longer than 10 days
  • You develop a fever
  • You experience lots of thick nasal discharge, sinus pain, or other facial pain

If you have cold & flu symptoms you should get tested and follow health advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/default.aspx

Nasal congestion with cough FAQs

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Consider taking a cough medicine that contains a decongestant, such as the DURO-TUSS Cough Plus Nasal Decongestant liquids for dry coughs or chesty coughs.

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 Yes! Viral infections, such as the common cold, that cause nasal congestion can also trigger a cough, plus excess mucus production can lead to a post nasal drip cough. 

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Other symptoms of postnasal drip include a runny nose and the sensation of liquid dripping into the back of your throat, making you clear your throat a lot. If you feel like you’re experiencing postnasal drip, please speak with your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

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Try propping your head up with an extra pillow – this can help reduce the amount of mucus in your throat while you sleep.

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Decongestant medications can help to reduce the swelling that causes a blocked nose.

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Nasal congestion can be a symptom of allergies or irritation. Talk to your doctor to learn more about how to relieve persistent nasal congestion.