No one wants to be sidelined by head congestion. A headache and stuffy nose can make you feel uncomfortable and may keep you from accomplishing simple daily tasks. When you understand head congestion causes and symptoms, you can take the appropriate steps to get relief and help prevent them from disrupting your life further. Keep reading to learn more about head congestion and how to help treat your symptoms.
What is Head Congestion?
Head congestion refers to the pressure and discomfort you feel from a runny or stuffy nose. Though head congestion is usually harmless, it can leave you feeling miserable and exhausted for several days.
What Causes Head Congestion?
Your head feels congested when mucus builds up, causing blood vessels in your nose to become inflamed and resulting in swollen tissues and head pressure. The cause for this extra mucus varies, but below are some common reasons you might be feeling stuffy.
A Common Cold
With more than 1 billion colds in the United States each year, it’s likely your head congestion is caused by the common cold. When you catch a cold, a virus infects your nose and throat, resulting in head cold symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, coughing and headaches.
This virus causes your nose to make thick, clear mucus, which helps wash away the germs from your nose and sinuses. This mucus also causes the nasal swelling that feels like head pressure.
When your nose swells, it can eventually interfere with your sinuses ability to drain, causing more mucus buildup. As a result, pressure builds and leads to pain in your forehead, between or behind your eyes and even your teeth.
If you’re experiencing head congestion, you probably want to know: How long does a head cold last? Most signs of a cold go away after seven to 10 days.
Similarly, the influenza virus leads to head congestion by infecting your nose, throat and lungs, and causing nasal swelling. People often confuse a cold with the flu because their symptoms are similar. However, flu symptoms often come on quicker and are more severe, resulting in a fever, body aches, chills and more.
A Sinus Infection
Sometimes a runny nose and nasal swelling are actually a result of sinus congestion. Head and sinus congestion have different causes and treatments, but a sinus infection occurs when the swelling in your nose interferes with your sinuses’ ability to drain, causing a mucus buildup that attracts bacteria and other germs. If your cold symptoms haven’t improved after a week, see your doctor. You could be developing a sinus infection.
How to Relieve a Head Cold and Head Congestion
If you start to feel bad from nasal swelling or a stuffy nose, you can take steps to improve your symptoms and make yourself more comfortable. Here are some remedies for head congestion. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
Whether you catch the cold or flu, what your body needs most is rest. Go to bed early, take naps when needed, and don’t be afraid to take time off work or keep your children home from school. Not only will this prevent you from overexerting yourself, but it also helps avoid spreading your germs to others.
Drinking lots of fluids is key to helping your immune system function properly, so consume even more than you do when healthy. Water, fruit juices with vitamin C, clear broth or warm lemon water with honey do the best job of keeping you hydrated and loosening congestion. Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages like coffee or soda make dehydration worse, so avoid them until symptoms improve.
Add Moisture to the Air
Though it seems counterproductive, you don’t want your nasal passages to dry up. Dry airways can increase nasal swelling that leads to a stuffy nose and nasal congestion. Keep moisture in the air with a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier; be sure to change the water and clean the unit properly. Steam from a shower or a hot cup of tea can also add extra moisture to the nasal passages to help with drainage.
Don’t Use Antibiotics to Treat Colds
Because colds are caused by viruses and not by bacteria, antibiotics are ineffective at treating colds. They will not relieve your symptoms and inappropriate use can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Get Ahead of Cold Symptoms
Though there’s no promise you’ll escape cold and flu season without a runny nose or sore throat, there are some steps you can take to increase your chances of staying healthy.
- Wash your hands frequently to help prevent coming into contact with or spreading harmful germs.
- Disinfect your environment and frequently clean commonly touched surfaces such as sink handles, doorknobs and handrails.
- Avoid sharing personal items, especially those that come in contact with your eyes, nose or mouth like utensils, washcloths or cups.
- Do not come in close contact with people who have colds or other upper respiratory infections.
Overall, pursue a healthy lifestyle to boost immunity by eating nutritious food, sleeping eight hours, drinking water, exercising and managing stress.