Nasal Congestion

Medication Information Leaflet

What is Nasal congestion?

Nasal congestion is also known as a stuffy and blocked nose. This can happen when the lining of the nose is irritated resulting in the blood vessels around the nose becoming inflamed and swollen. This feeling of fullness is often accompanied by other symptoms including sinus pain, sneezing, headache and an itchy or irritated nose.

People may experience nasal congestion during episodes of viral illnesses, such as the common cold or the flu, or when they have allergies.

What are the possible causes of this condition?

Nasal congestion can be caused by a variety of reasons such as:

  • Acute viral illnesses e.g. common cold, flu or sinus infections
  • Allergies
  • Deviated septum, a condition where the bone and cartilage that divides the nose is off centre
  • Long-lasting sinus infections
  • Nasal polyps, which are soft, painless growths inside the nose
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress
  • Spicy foods
  • Use of decongestant nasal sprays for more than 3 days

What are the symptoms of Nasal congestion?

The symptoms of this condition can include the following:

  • Blocked or full sensation in the nose
  • Headache
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of smell
  • Headache

What can I do to treat Nasal congestion?

Nasal congestion can be treated in the following ways and you can approach your pharmacist to get the following medications. 

  • Decongestant nasal sprays such as Oxymetazoline or Xylometazoline
  • Steroid nasal sprays such as Mometasone furoate nasal spray or Fluticasone furoate nasal spray
  • Antihistamines or paracetamol products that contain oral decongestants such as Pseudoephedrine or Phenylephrine
  • Antihistamines such as Cetirizine, Loratadine, Fexofenadine or Chlorpheniramine

When do I need to see a doctor?

Although nasal congestion can be treated without a doctor’s consultation, there are times where the condition might be more serious. 

If your condition does not get better in 2 weeks or gets worse, you should see a doctor. You should also see a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Mucus becoming yellowish or greenish 
  • Chest pain
  • Congestion is accompanied by a high fever lasting more than 3 days
  • Discharge from the nose with a bad smell
  • Discharge coming out from only 1 nostril
  • Nasal discharge following a head injury
  • Pain in the forehead or ears
  • Shortness of breath

What else can I do to manage this condition?

Other than using medications to treat the condition, nasal congestion can also be managed by the following methods:

  • Keeping your nose moist by using saline nasal spray or a humidifier.
  • Blowing your nose gently with one or both nostrils open. For babies, remove mucus from the nostrils using an aspirator (suction pump).
  • Drinking lots of fluids to loosen thick mucus and prevent it from blocking your sinuses.
  • Propping your head up on pillows when going to sleep.

The following are some suggestions to prevent nasal congestion from happening again:

  • Avoid any known allergens
  • Do not use decongestant nasal sprays for more than 3-5 days in a row
  • Practice good hand and personal hygiene


This article is jointly developed by members of the National Medication Information workgroup. The workgroup consists of cluster partners (National Healthcare Group, National University Health System and SingHealth), community pharmacies (Guardian, Unity and Watsons) and Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore. The content does not reflect drug availability and supply information in pharmacies and healthcare institutions. You are advised to check with the respective institutions for such information.

The content above is solely for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or supplement, or adopting any treatment for a health problem.

Last updated on November 2023

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