Chronic stuffy nose? Common causes & solutions to breathe better

When you catch a cold or other virus, you might spend several days struggling to breathe thanks to a stuffy nose. Certainly unpleasant—but, thankfully, temporary. Once your body fights off the infection, you’re able to start breathing freely again. With congestion that’s chronic, however—every day can feel like a battle to breathe.

Nasal congestion is a common condition with many causes. Nearly everyone likely experiences nasal congestion occasionally, and the most common culprit is usually the cold, flu, or other virus. The infection passes and the congestion clears up, and breathing becomes easy and returns to normal again.  For people struggling with ongoing congestion, though, this is not the case. 

What is nasal congestion? 

Nasal congestion occurs when something irritates tissues lining the inside of your nose. The irritation sets off a chain reaction of inflammation, swelling and mucus production, making it hard to breathe in air through your nose.

It is typical for the body to produce around 1-2 quarts of mucous a day, which helps moisten the nasal and sinus passages. It also helps in trapping debris and fighting off infections. Where does it all go? Usually, under normal circumstances, it just slides down harmlessly into your digestive system and essentially flushed out of your body. It’s a process we likely may not even be aware of, until it goes awry. 

When you have nasal congestion, something is irritating the lining of your nasal passages or sinuses, creating inflammation that can trap mucus. Making matters worse, your body may produce more mucus in response to the inflammation. 

Nasal congestion typically clears after a few days, but congestion that lasts for a week or more may be a sign of an infection (which, left untreated, may cause further problems and illness, such as bacterial sinusitis or middle ear infection). 

If you suffer from a stuffy nose that just won’t go away, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to pinpoint the source.

When you have chronic nasal congestion, finding out what’s behind your constantly stuffy nose is a critical step in order to identify treatment options that can offer you relief and help you start breathing better through your nose.

Diagnosing chronic congestion

Your doctor or ENT may begin to diagnose chronic nasal congestion by evaluating your symptoms and checking your ear, nose and throat. Diagnostic tests may include a CT scan to look for obstruction your nose and/or a nasal endoscopy, which uses a special camera to look inside your nose and provide better information about what may potentially be occurring. 

Potential causes of chronic congestion

Chronic nasal congestion can have numerous and varying causes.

Here are a few relatively common conditions chronic nasal congestion might stem from: 


When the linings of your sinuses are inflamed, this can block the flow of mucus and lead to congestion. While this can be acute and clear up with a matter of days or weeks, many people suffer from chronic sinusitis that can linger for months or frequently re-occurring bouts of acute sinus infections. 

Depending on the particular causes of sinusitis, some patients may be good candidates for balloon sinuplasty, which is a minimally invasive procedure that can offer long-term relief and lasting results from sinusitis symptoms. 


If certain seasons seem to make you nose feel more stuffy, you may have seasonal rhinitis, or hay fever. Seasonal allergies affect a fair portion of the population. Congestion and runny nose are hallmark symptoms of this condition. Allergic rhinitis is how your body reacts to allergens—such as pollen, dust, mold, pet dander—tiny particles in the air that trigger an allergic, over-active, immune response to otherwise harmless substance, leading to inflammation and potentially chronic congestion. 

Congestion can also stem from a form of nonallergic rhinitis, which is a condition that you may be able to manage by identifying what triggers congestion and by avoiding triggers and/or taking medication to control symptoms. 

Deviated Septum 

This is a potential source due to anatomical or physical irregularity. Your septum  is a piece of bone and cartilage that divides your nostrils. If this tissue is moderately or severely crooked, it can lead to nasal congestion, especially in the smaller nostril.

Nasal Polyps 

What are they? Nasal polyps are growths that can develop in your nasal passages and/or sinuses. While benign, their presence can cause chronic nasal congestion. They can be a source of obstruction. Resulting in less room in the passageways for normal processes and flow to happen/function. 


There are a wide range of solutions that can help you breathe easier. Of course, your chronic nasal congestion will be treated based on the specific cause. In some cases a combination approach may be indicated, which may involve a combination of approaches that range from medications, making certain lifestyle adjustments (such as will allergies and environmental triggers), to minimally invasive surgeries using the latest innovative techniques  (to help open up the airways, correct structural issues, obstructions, and make it easier to deliver medications).  

No matter what’s behind your nasal congestion, at The Ohio Sinus Institute we’ll help you identify and treat the problem. Breathing through your nose doesn’t have to be a constant battle. The Ohio Sinus Institute can help you get on the path better breathing with a range of advanced and personalized solutions and treatment options that are a fit for you. Call The Ohio Sinus Institute today and schedule your appointment!