Finding ways to keep mucus thin will help it drain from your nose and sinuses and relieve your symptoms. Drinking plenty of clear fluids is one way to do this. You can also:
Apply a warm, moist washcloth to your face several times a day.
Inhale steam 2 to 4 times a day. One way to do this is to sit in the bathroom with the shower running. Do not inhale hot steam.
Use a vaporizer or humidifier.
A nasal wash can help remove mucus from your nose.
You can buy a saline spray at a drugstore or make one at home. To make one, use 1 cup (240 milliliters) of warm water, 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) of salt, and a pinch of baking soda.
Use gentle saline nasal sprays 3 to 4 times per day.
Congestion is often worse when lying down. Keep upright, or at least keep the head elevated.
Some stores sell adhesive strips that can be placed on the nose. These help widen the nostrils, making breathing easier.
Medicines you can buy at the store without a prescription can help your symptoms.
Decongestants are drugs that shrink and dry up your nasal passages. They may help dry up a runny or stuffy nose.
Antihistamines are drugs that treat allergy symptoms. Some antihistamines make you drowsy so use with care.
Nasal sprays can relieve stuffiness. Don't use over-the-counter nasal sprays more often than 3 days on and 3 days off, unless told to by your health care provider.
Many cough, allergy, and cold medicines you buy have more than one medicine inside. Read the labels carefully to make sure you don't take too much of any one medicine. Ask your provider which cold medicines are safe for you.
If you have allergies:
Your provider may also prescribe nasal sprays that treat allergy symptoms.
Bachert C, Calus L, Gevaert P. Rhinosinusitis and nasal polyps. In: Adkinson NF, Bochner BS, Burks AW, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 43.
Corren J, Baroody FM, Pawankar R. Allergic and nonallergic rhinitis. In: Adkinson NF, Bochner BS, Burks AW, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 42.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.