Nasal congestion can have many causes. It is important to find out what is causing nasal congestion in order to carefully choose, preferably with the help of a doctor or pharmacist, remedies that do not harm nasal mucus and its physiological functions.
Nasal congestion is caused by inflammation from viruses, bacteria, irritants or allergic substances attacking nasal mucus. Mucus rapidly defends itself from these attacks drawing on special cells in the immune system carried in the blood and producing substances that create an unfavourable environment for the aggressors (which carry the inflammation) and also greater quantities of mucus. To carry out this rapid intense work, the mucus requires greater quantities of blood from the network of capillaries beneath the epithelium and this causes the capillaries to dilate (vasodilation).
Paranasal sinuses are closely connected with the nasal cavity through little foramina (ostia) so inflammation of the nose can spread to the sinuses (rhinosinusitis). Inflammation causes the mucus in the sinuses to congest, blocks the ostia, and prevents mucus from being channelled towards the nose. This can cause bacterial infections.
Congestion of the mucus in the sinuses can cause a feeling of heaviness around the jaw, forehead and areas above and below the eyes. This can result in a high temperature or fever in the case of viral or bacterial infections. In the most serious cases, the pain can be extremely intense and feel even worse when leaning your head forwards or lying down. Your sense of taste and smell may also be affected.
Rhinitis manifests as a “blocked nose”. It may be an isolated illness (cold) or come with flu, flu – like syndromes and allergies. Infectious forms are often due to viruses. This causes sneezing, a runny nose (rhinorrhea), the feeling of having a blocked nose and irritated mucus.
A stuffy nose causes you to breathe through an open mouth that can then irritate the throat. The constant flow of mucus secretions towards the lower part of the pharynx combined with a dry throat will cause you to cough. This can be particularly irritating during the night and interfere with your sleep. The allergic form may cause either occasional symptoms (intermittent form) or persistent symptoms (lasting up to several months – a – year). Other forms of rhinitis are vasomotor and non – allergic rhinitis (NAR).
The increased blood flow turns the mucus redder in colour (hyperaemia) and causes it to swell. The increase in volume of mucus creates a block age in the nasal cavity, making the nose feel stuffy. This is accentuated by all the liquids coming out of the dilated capillaries that mix with the excess mucus to make breathing freely more difficult.
During an infectious illness or allergy, it is the reaction of the mucus’s physiological defences that result in that uncomfortable feeling of a blocked nose. This is something worth thinking about. Taking aggressive action to counteract these defence mechanisms actually leaves the organism defenceless against these attacks.