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Swollen Nasal Passages

Swollen Nasal Passages

Common cold and sinusitis emerge as the most common causes of swollen nasal passages. If the nasal passages or the air-filled cavities around these passages swell up or become inflamed, the affected individual is most likely to find it hard to breathe. Learn about the circumstances under which the passages in the nasal cavity may swell up along with ways to deal with this condition.
Smita Pandit
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
People who often suffer from medical conditions such as sinusitis, rhinitis, cold, flu or upper respiratory infections are more likely to develop swelling in the passages in the nasal cavity. Severe nasal congestion that may occur due to excessive production of mucus could also be responsible for this discomforting medical condition.
What Causes the Nasal Passages to Swell Up?
Sinusitis refers to the inflammation of sinuses. Sinuses are the four pairs of air-filled cavities that are located within the bones that surround our nose, cheeks and eyes. These cavities perform the vital function of filtering the dust particles from the inhaled air. The layer of mucus that covers these sinuses not only moistens the inhaled air but also protects the lungs from the harmful viruses, bacteria and allergens. These air-filled cavities could get inflamed due to viral, fungal or bacterial infections.
While pathogenic infections are commonly responsible for causing sinusitis, sometimes nasal bone injuries could also trigger sinusitis. When the sinuses become inflamed, the sinus membranes begin to secrete larger amounts of mucus to get rid of these irritants. This causes the nasal membranes to swell up.
Rhinitis refers to the inflammation of mucous membranes that line the nose. It is characterized by runny, itchy nose. Rhinitis could be allergic as well as non-allergic in nature. One may develop such symptoms on coming into contact with environmental irritants. People may develop an allergic reaction on inhaling dust, chemical fumes, pollen or any substance that they might be allergic to. Consumption of any food item that one may be allergic to, could also give rise to such symptoms.
Rhinitis medicamentosa, which is commonly referred to as rebound nasal congestion, is mainly caused due to the excessive use of nasal decongestant sprays. Since the use of nasal sprays provides instant relief, people often get tempted to use them at frequent intervals. These sprays work by constricting the blood vessels that are present in the lining of the nose. If the patient continues to use nasal decongestants/sprays that contain drugs like naphazoline, phenylephrine, xylometazoline, oxymetazolie, etc., the mucosal lining of the nose is most likely to swell up. In severe cases, rebound nasal congestion could lead to conditions such as chronic/atrophic sinusitis or permanent turbinate hyperplasia.
Treatment Options
What should one do when the passages in the nasal cavity swell up? First of all, the underlying cause of this swelling must be identified. Various factors could contribute to inflammation of the passages which is why the treatment options would vary depending on the underlying cause. The drugs that may be prescribed may also depend on the type of infection one may be suffering from.
Medication
After ascertaining the nature of the ailment, doctors may prescribe antibiotics, steroids, nasal allergy medication or decongestant sprays to treat this condition. In case of patients suffering from rebound nasal congestion, the treatment would involve the withdrawal of the nasal decongestant, spray or any other drug that may have caused this condition. Since permanent turbinate hyperplasia blocks nasal breathing, people suffering from this condition would have to undergo surgery.
Precautionary Measures
  • If you are prone to allergic rhinitis or any other upper respiratory infection, you need to make sure that your surroundings are clean and free of allergenic substances.
  • Make sure that you don't consume foods that you are allergic to. If the swelling is causing severe breathing problems, do consult a doctor.
You can also try certain home remedies for reducing this swelling. If the swelling is caused due to sinusitis, you can try certain tried-and-tested natural remedies. 
  • Steam inhalation is surely one of the most effective home remedy. All you need to do is heat water till it boils and then inhale steam for about 10 minutes. Make sure that you wrap a towel around your head while inhaling steam. You can also add a few drops of tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil to boiling water. While steam inhalation will help in thinning down the mucus, the antibacterial properties of these oils would help in destroying the bacteria.
  • Drinking herbal tea will also provide relief. You can drink mint tea or peppermint tea. You can also use wild thyme for treating the swelling. Wild thyme is believed to possess decongestant properties which is why it will also help in alleviating the swelling. Herbal tea made from ground ivy might also help in treating this problem.
  • Besides these remedies, you can also try alternative healing therapies such as yoga, acupressure or shiatsu. Nasal irrigation is another effective method for sinus drainage that will surely provide relief from nasal congestion.
These were some self-care measures that you can follow to deal with this condition. Though simple home remedies can provide relief, do consult a doctor if the swelling in the nasal passages is making it extremely hard for you to breathe normally.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.