Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Symptoms Evaluation Treatment specialist Home Care congestion in adults congestion in children warning signs Underlying Cause Anatomy

Head Congestion Home Care

Home care for nasal or sinus congestion includes:


For more information:

Head Congestion Congestion in Adults

Home treatment measures for treating nasal or sinus congestion in adults include: general measures and medications. Medications include oral decongestants, decongestant nasal sprays and antihistamines.

General Measures

  • Blow your nose gently. Forceful blowing can cause pain and bleeding.
  • Apply petroleum jelly to the nostrils if the skin becomes dry.
  • Drink plenty of liquids.
  • Place a vaporizer or nebulizer in the bedroom at night.
  • Use saline (saltwater) nose spray, such as Ocean Nasal Mist: saline helps to keep the lining of nasal passages moist. Saline may be used to flush the nasal passages:
    • Lie on your back and tilt your head back.
    • Apply 2- 4 drops of saline in one on nostril, then wait 1 minute.
    • Blow your nose.
    • Repeat in the other nostril.

Oral Decongestants
Oral decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) and phenylephrine, help to thin the mucus responsible for the congestion. Decongestants are safe for adults and adolescents.

Precautions include:

Decongestant Sprays
Decongestant nasal sprays, such as pseudoephedrine (Afrin) can relieve congestion faster than oral medications.

Examples include:
  • Afrin Nasal Spray
  • Duration Nasal Spray
  • Four-Way Fast Nasal Spray
  • Neo-Synephrine Nasal Spray
  • Vicks Sinex Nasal Spray

Precautions include:
  • Do not use decongestant nasal sprays for longer than 3 days. After three days, the nasal tissues become dependent on the medication. When the medication is stopped, the nasal tissue swells and congestion worsens.

Antihistamines
Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) brompheniramine and chlorpheniramine, dry nasal tissue.

Examples include:

Precautions include:

Head Congestion Congestion in Children

Home treatment measures for treating nasal or sinus congestion in children include general measures and medications. Medications include oral decongestants, decongestant nasal sprays and antihistamines.

General Measures

  • Ask your child to blow the nose gently. Forceful blowing can cause pain and bleeding.
  • Apply petroleum jelly to the nostrils if the skin becomes dry.
  • Drink plenty of liquids.
  • Place a vaporizer or nebulizer in the bedroom at night.
  • Use saline (saltwater) nose spray, such as Ocean Nasal Mist: saline helps to keep the lining of nasal passages moist.

Oral Decongestants
Oral decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), help to thin the mucus responsible for the congestion. Decongestants are safe for children more than 6 years old. Talk to your doctor before providing a decongestant to a child less than 6 years old.

Decongestant Sprays
Decongestant nasal sprays, such as pseudoephedrine (Afrin), can relieve congestion faster than oral medications, but should not be used in children less than 12 years old.

Examples include:
  • Afrin Nasal Spray
  • Duration Nasal Spray
  • Four-Way Fast Nasal Spray
  • Neo-Synephrine Nasal Spray
  • Vicks Sinex Nasal Spray

Precautions include:
  • Do not use decongestant nasal sprays for longer than 3 days. After three days, the nasal tissues become dependent on the medication. When the medication is stopped, the nasal tissue swells and congestion worsens.

Antihistamines
Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) brompheniramine and chlorpheniramine, dry nasal tissue. Antihistamines are safe for children more than 5 years old. Talk to your doctor before providing an antihistamine to a child less than 5 years old.

Examples include:

Precautions include:

Diphenhydramine Dosing Chart
AgeDoseIntervalMax Daily Dose
2-5 years6.25 mg4-6 hours37.5 mg/day
6-11 years12.5-25 mg4-6 hours150 mg/day
12 and older25-50 mg4-6 hours300 mg/day

Chlorpheniramine Dosing Chart
AgeDoseIntervalMax Daily Dose
Under 6consult your physician
6-11 years2 mg4-6 hours12 mg/day
12 and up4 mg4-6 hours24 mg/day

Head Congestion Warning Signs

Notify your doctor if you have nasal or sinus congestion and any of the following:

Continue to Head Congestion Underlying Cause

Last Updated: Mar 14, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Head Congestion References
  1. Bhattacharyya N. Clinical and symptom criteria for the accurate diagnosis of chronic rhinosinusitis. Laryngoscope. 2006 Jul;116(7 Pt 2 Suppl 110):1-22. [16826087]
  2. Corey JP, Houser SM, Ng BA. Nasal congestion: a review of its etiology, evaluation, and treatment. Ear Nose Throat J. 2000 Sep;79(9):690-3, 696, 698. [11011488]
  3. Eccles R, Jawad MS, Jawad SS, Angello JT, Druce HM. Efficacy and safety of single and multiple doses of pseudoephedrine in the treatment of nasal congestion associated with common cold Am J Rhinol. 2005 Jan-Feb;19(1):25-31. [15794071]
  4. Moller C, Ahlstrom H, Henricson KA, Malmqvist LA, Akerlund A, Hildebrand H. Safety of nasal budesonide in the long-term treatment of children with perennial rhinitis. Clin Exp Allergy. 2003 Jun;33(6):816-22. [1280131]
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