7 reasons why you wake up congested


Nasal congestion

If the first thing you do in the morning is reach for your box of tissues to blow your nose, or if you are constantly sniffling, listen up.

Dr. Claudia Pastides, general practitioner for Physicians' Service explains that one of the main causes of waking up with a stuffy nose is rhinitis, which is actually an inflammation of the tissues that line the inside of the nose.

The inflammation can be caused by an allergy, called allergic rhinitis, or by non-allergic rhinitis, Dr. Pastides explains.

Here, she tells us how to treat it, as well as other reasons you may wake up with a stuffy nose.

How do you manage hay fever when you're outside more often than usual?

1. Allergies

The most common cause is probably an allergy. Allergic rhinitis is thought to affect about one in five people. "It's usually caused by something in the environment that triggers an allergic reaction," says Dr. Pastides. "The allergic response causes the lining of the nose to swell and produce more mucus." Cue: all the snot.

Among the most common allergens that wreak havoc on our nostrils are pollen, mold and dust. "Some people only get allergic rhinitis at certain times of the year, such as if they're allergic to certain pollens," adds Dr. Pastides. "Or it can be present year-round - if, for example, your allergy is to dust."

If you're often very congested first thing in the morning, but the problem resolves during the day, it may mean you were exposed to a particular allergen overnight - for example, dust, dust mites or pet hair. Or, if you suffer from hay fever, you may notice that it is worse in the morning when pollen counts are high.

By asking yourself what time of day you have this problem - and whether it's seasonal - you can determine what you're allergic to. Failing that, you can take an allergy test. Dr. Pastides recommends finding out what the allergen is so you can avoid it, although she notes that's easier said than done. Most people don't know what the allergen is, or simply can't avoid it.

In this case, you can take over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines or rinse your nose regularly with salt water. But if it affects your daily life and doesn't get better, talk to a doctor because there are prescription nasal sprays that can help, she adds.

2. The common cold

You probably had fewer colds last year because you were exposed to fewer germs by spending more time at home. But that doesn't mean your risk of catching one is zero. If you wake up feeling congested for a short period of time (one or two weeks), it may be due to a cold that attacks the lining of your nose.

The symptoms of a cold, which appear gradually, are: blocked or runny nose (obviously), sore throat, headache, muscle pain, coughing, sneezing, high temperature, pressure in the ears and face, loss of taste and smell.

"Letting the cold run its course is often the best treatment," says Dr. Pastides. You should rest, get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of fluids and possibly take painkillers if you have pain.

3. Your environment

Very cold or hot weather, humidity or a very smoky environment can all wake you up with a stuffy nose. According to Dr. Pastides, avoiding these circumstances will stop nasal congestion.

If you can't avoid them - we understand, you can't control the weather - there are things you can do to alleviate the problem. If it's really cold, for example, put a scarf over your nose to warm the air around your face or go to bed with the heater on low.

4. Pregnancy

Yes, it's true. Pregnancy brings about a whole host of bodily changes, including inflammation of the nasal lining due to hormones.

Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about it. "The stuffy nose will resolve when you're no longer pregnant, but in the meantime, it may help to lift your head out of bed a bit," says Dr. Pastides.

"If you're still having trouble, it's a good idea to talk to a health care provider and see what treatments are appropriate for pregnancy."

5. Overuse of nasal sprays

According to Paul Spraggs, an ENT surgeon at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, more and more patients are presenting to the hospital with self-induced rhinitis caused by overuse of nasal sprays like Sudafed or Vicks Sinex.

"These are medications that you buy over the counter for short-term use for colds, but people tend to get addicted to them," he told HuffPost UK. "This causes a type of rhinitis that we often see in secondary care that is very difficult to treat."

If you've been using nasal decongestant sprays a lot, they could - ironically - be the cause of your stuffy nose. If you think this is the case, talk to your doctor.

6. Polyps

Nasal polyps are painless, fleshy swellings that develop inside your nose. While they're usually not serious, they can continue to grow and block your nose if left untreated, the NHS says.

Symptoms are similar to those of a common cold - stuffy nose, runny nose, constant need to swallow, decreased sense of smell or taste, nosebleeds and snoring - but while colds tend to go away after about a week, polyp symptoms won't go away until the problem is treated.

If you think you have polyps, see your general practitioner, who should be able to offer you a steroid nasal spray to reduce the growths. If the situation does not improve after about 10 weeks, he or she may suggest surgery to remove the growths.

7. Sinusitis

Inflammation of the sinuses can cause a runny nose in the morning. This problem can be acute (short-lived, one or two weeks, often due to an infection) or chronic (long-lasting), explains Dr. Pastides.

Sinusitis is common after a cold or flu. Its symptoms include pain, swelling and tenderness around the cheeks, eyes or forehead; stuffy nose; reduced sense of smell; green or yellow mucus from the nose; sinus headache; high temperature; toothache; and bad breath.

"While acute sinusitis is often short-lived and usually gets better on its own, polyps and chronic sinusitis need to be diagnosed by a doctor and may require specific treatment," says Dr. Pastides.

But if your stuffy nose has been going on for a while and isn't getting better, or if you have other symptoms such as a fever that won't go down or general malaise, it's wise to talk to your doctor.

We meet your Allergy Needs