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What are the Common Causes of Nasal Swelling?

By Bethany Keene
Updated Feb 29, 2024
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The most common causes of nasal swelling include injury to the nose, a cold or allergies that inflames the nasal passages, and a sinus infection that causes pain and swelling both in the nose and in the cheeks and forehead. Identifying the cause of the swelling is the first step to treating it. Some people find that even something as simple as dry air in the home can cause swelling of the nasal passages and breathing difficulty. In addition, it is important to make sure that the nose isn't broken if it is swollen due to a trauma.

A broken nose will certainly cause nasal swelling, which can make it difficult to determine if the nose is actually broken or simply bruised. A broken nose will typically cause severe nose bleeding, and the nose may actually look crooked and will be extremely painful to the touch. If in doubt, it is best to visit a doctor to be sure. Otherwise, the best way to deal with a swollen nose from an injury or trauma is to apply ice in intervals, and to sit quietly until the swelling begins to go down. Bleeding should stop shortly; if it continues, it will be necessary to go to the doctor as well.

Nasal swelling that is not caused by any specific injury can be more frustrating. Allergies or a cold can both cause swelling and irritation of the nasal passages. Taking a decongestant or allergy medication might help, as well as rinsing the nasal passages with warm saline by using a neti pot. This can be especially helpful to clear the nose of dust and allergies that might be causing inflammation. In addition, a warm saline rinse is a good way to prevent sinus infections; if a sinus infection does occur, antibiotics are typically required to treat it, which should soon help to relieve the pain and swelling.

If the cause of the nasal swelling cannot be determined, it might be the air in one's workplace or home, or the type of heating used; forced air heat or recycled air in an office building can make the environment very dry, for example. Some people find that using a humidifier at night can be helpful at reducing congestion and swelling in the nose. In addition, sleeping with the head more elevated can help to prevent pressure from building in the sinuses, which can lead to pain and swelling.

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Discussion Comments
By anon346707 — On Aug 30, 2013

Opening windows and keeping the fresh air flowing in your face prevents your nasal passages from swelling and closing up! I know this from personal experience while staying in an environment with windows closed, dust, mold, perfumes and smoke, my nasal passages closed up. When I lived my way with windows open all year long, I never had these symptoms! I think more people need to learn to open windows or get out in the fresh air at least 3/4 of their day and definitely sleep with a window open at night! It really helps, trust me!

By strawCake — On Jul 07, 2011

@indemnifyme - My friend is an allergy sufferer just like you and she's had a lot of success with using the neti pot. You might consider giving it a try! Even if you can't totally stop with the nasal sprays you may be able to cut back a little bit.

By indemnifyme — On Jul 07, 2011

I'm an allergy sufferer so I'm pretty familiar with nasal swelling. My allergies make my nasal passages swell up so much I can barely breathe through my nose! Unfortunately the only thing that helps me is prescription nasal spray with steroids in it. Steroids are anti-inflammatory and often used for allergies and asthma.

Steroid nasal sprays come with some unpleasant side effects such as nose bleeds and excessive drying of the nasal passages. I'm looking for a better solution but right now they are the best thing.

By StarJo — On Jul 06, 2011

During the winter, my nose often swells. My nostrils become very dry, yet I still have to blow my nose a lot to get the dried mucus out of there. This often leads to nose bleeds and painful nasal passages.

I had heard that a humidifier might offer relief for this winter condition, so I started using one in my bedroom at night. It moisturized the inside of my nose, and I was able to breathe enough to finally get some sleep.

I know that the humidifier worked, because when I would fall asleep on the couch in the living room, my nose felt awful. As soon as I woke up and moved to the bedroom and plugged in the humidifier, it felt all right again.

By Oceana — On Jul 06, 2011

I used to develop frequent vicious colds that caused nasal swelling. I figured that my sinuses swelled up because the cold caused an overproduction of mucus and the need to blow my nose constantly, but my doctor said that was not the case.

He told me that my nasal swelling was due to the cold itself, and that I actually produced the same amount of mucus as usual. However, this mucus could not drain properly, because the swollen passages would not allow it through. So, it backed up, much like the contents of a clogged sewage system would do.

By Perdido — On Jul 05, 2011

One summer, I had been doing a lot of singing. I had been trying to get through recording an album, but my nose and throat were fighting me.

I had been having trouble breathing through my nose for quite some time, but I chalked it up to allergies. The mucus had started to turn an unusual bright yellow, and sometimes my nose would bleed when I blew it. I knew that these were symptoms of a sinus infection, and I also knew that it would not go away without treatment.

In addition to this, I had a couple of white spots on my throat. I thought that they had developed because I sang too much, but my doctor said they were a part of the infection. She gave me antibiotics, and my condition improved quickly. I even got the album finished before summer ended.

By parklinkz — On Jul 05, 2011

@kangaBurg – I don’t blame you. There are several herbal things that can help relieve nasal passage swelling.

I drink hot chamomile tea when my nose feels stuffy. It’s loaded with good stuff, including a protein that reduces inflammation. I like to breathe in the tea steam deeply as I drink the tea. That seems to help, too.

My mom’s allergic to daisies, so she can’t drink chamomile. She drinks sage tea instead. If she’s really blocked up, she’ll wash her nasal passages out with a sage and water solution. It’s gross, but it works.

I hear garlic and eucalyptus also reduce nasal inflammation. By the way, please see a certified herbalist or a doctor before you use the remedies I mentioned, just to be on the safe side.

By kangaBurg — On Jul 04, 2011

Are there any herbal remedies that have been proven to reduce nasal swelling? Something in my office at work (I still haven’t figured out what it is) makes my nasal passages swell, so I often want to take a decongestant after work every day. I’d rather use a natural approach instead of taking medicine for the rest of my working life.

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