What You Should Do Instead of Blowing Your Nose 200 Times a Day
Stuck in stuffy nose hell? As tempting as it is to blow through a tissue box a day, the temporary relief you might feel isn’t worth it.
“Blowing your nose with too much force can actually cause breakage of vessels and undue stress,” says Purvi Parikh, M.D., an allergist and immunologist with Virginia-based Allergy & Asthma Network.
You could also make matters worse by blowing air, nasal bacteria, virus particles, and irritants into your ears and sinuses—which at best could cause irritation, and at worst may trigger an infection, says Andrew Lane, M.D., director of the division of Rhinology and Sinus Surgery Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Besides, it’s essentially pointless to keep reaching for tissues. “If you’re sick, no matter how much you blow, your nose will keep making new mucus,” Dr. Lane says. “You can’t really ‘clear’ it.”
That’s because the stuffiness you feel comes from your nasal passage tissue swelling. So you need to treat the underlying cause—be it allergies, a virus, or bacteria—to nix your snot gridlock for good.
Put the Kleenex down and try these three ways to breathe easier. None of them will blow your mind, but they’re more effective than blowing your nose.
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1. Steam It Out
Warm air helps add humidity to your nose, opening your nasal passage and breaking up congestion—especially the kind that has hardened into a wall—so you can then blow out the blockage, says Dr. Parikh.
You can try a couple methods. The easiest is taking a long shower every day that you’re sick, which you’re probably doing anyway. But crank the knob so it’s hotter than usual: If your mirror fogs up, it’s steamy enough to clear your nasal package, Dr. Parikh says.
If you’ve got some time to kill, boil a pot of water and stand directly over it, inhaling the steam for up to 30 minutes.
Related: The Fastest Way to Clear a Stuffed Nose
2. Start the Right Nasal Spray, Stat
Over-the-counter sprays can help decrease and treat underlying inflammation, helping cure your congestion instead of just providing brief relief, says Dr. Parikh.
The only bummer: Fast-acting sprays like Afrin and oxymetazoline are potentially addictive, and can actually make your congestion come back worse if you use them too often.
So opt for Nasacort or Flonase, which take at least 7 days to kick in, but boast the best combination of safety and effectiveness, Dr. Parikh says.
3. Take an Allergy Pill
While you’re waiting for the sprays to work, consider popping an allergy pill like Zyrtec, Claritin, or Allegra, suggests Dr. Parikh. Even if your sniffles aren’t from hay fever or pollen, the antihistamine component in these meds still works to dry up your snot.
Just skip the kind of medicine with a “D” after it. Some decongestants, like Sudafed, have that same potential addictiveness and congesting-worsening properties as short-term nasal sprays.
Decongestants can also dehydrate, keeping your mucus thick, Dr. Lane says.