Blocked nose on one side
May 5, 2005 4:44 AM   Subscribe

I’ve always had a constant blocked nose right through the winter and summer. I can usually breathe okay through one nostril, but the other is blocked.

The side that is blocked can shift, for example if I lie down on one side, that will become the blocked side. They will never both be unblocked.

Does this ring a bell with anyone? Does it point to any problem in particular?
posted by lunkfish to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've got a similar problem, although it's not quite as bad now. I had enlarged turbinates - the 'pillows' that help to warm incoming air. I had surgery to shave these down a bit. You may have a deviated septum, or other such blockage. You should get a referral to your nearest ENT doc.
posted by viama at 4:57 AM on May 5, 2005

I read somewhere once that it's normal to breathe out of one side or the other at a time, and most people have a daily cycle in when it moves back and forth. If it's noticable, yeah, you could show it to an ENT sometime.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:06 AM on May 5, 2005

I had a turbinectomy - solved the problem for me.
posted by kenchie at 5:17 AM on May 5, 2005

I thought this was normal. I've always had this situation. Is this not true for everyone?
posted by spicynuts at 6:40 AM on May 5, 2005

Wait, yeah. I always have one side at least partially blocked, and my boyfriend has mentioned it too because it feels really weird when it switches sides. This isn't normal?
posted by heatherann at 6:44 AM on May 5, 2005

Response by poster: I'm always stuffy and can't get enough breath through my nose. I though this was part of the problem, but maybe it's not related...
posted by lunkfish at 6:58 AM on May 5, 2005

I have discussed this with an ENT before. This is not true for everyone, but not necessarily cause for alarm. It might be due to a deviated septum or some inflammation.

Last time I complained to my doctor he said I should take OTC otrivine spray for a week and see if it cleared it up. It did! And in fact it stayed clear for weeks. But now it is returning to its old tricks. I guess I should go back sometime, but it might be something that only surgery could fix and it's not worth it at this point.
posted by grouse at 7:19 AM on May 5, 2005

I had this for a long time (a year?), where the same side was always blocked. I've recently lost a bunch of weight* and my nose is almost always clear now. And I've stopped snoring.

*I lost 60 lb. total, but I noticed the improvement in breathing/snoring at about 30 lb. of weight loss.
posted by Doohickie at 7:36 AM on May 5, 2005

I've also heard the theory about the daily cycle. A guy I worked for who was an accelerator physicist told me the theory...something like there are two states that your body cycles through a couple times a day. One state is a relaxed state, one is more alert and active. If you pay attention to the side of the nose you're breathing out of, you can tell which state you're in. If you're in the wrong state (relaxed, but at work and needing to be more alert, you can intentionally switch cycles by blocking the open nostril and trying to breath through the clogged one.

He was a cool guy but of course I don't believe a word of it.
posted by jacobsee at 8:14 AM on May 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

I use a neti pot to clean my sinuses about once a week. It helps keep me from getting sinus headaches and generally makes me feel better and breathe easier. It is, essentially, pouring saline water through one nostril and out the other. (Do both sides, and be sure to dry completely.)

The link is to a google search so as to not promote any site directly - the first few results will give you the idea and places to buy a pot, if you want.

It is similar to this product at, but a lot cheaper, since you supply your own salt and water.

I don't want to recommend this to people who may have actual sinus/nasal problems. You should probably talk to a doctor first, and I'm not a doctor.

I was thinking about posting something about neti pots to MeFi, but I haven't found many useful sites - most of them want to sell you a pot, and that's kind of pepsi blueish.
posted by drstupid at 8:34 AM on May 5, 2005

I also wouldn't rule out allergies, needed dietary changes, etc. If I were you, I'd consult a naturopathic doctor about a holistic approach to finding out what's causing this, and view surgery as a last resort.
posted by Specklet at 8:58 AM on May 5, 2005

I've been in for similar allergy/ENT problems and I was told that the nose naturally switches unblocked/blocked nostrils like that. I don't know why, but there you go (my problem was very little airflow through nostrils leading to snoring). For what it's worth, I was found to have a slight deviated septum, and somewhat mild allergic rhinitis. Allergy medication clears things up slightly, just enough to stop snoring most of the time.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:58 AM on May 5, 2005

Yes, it is perfectly normal to only be able to breathe out of one nostril at a time. The nostril changes about every few hours. This is true for everybody.
posted by wsg at 9:41 AM on May 5, 2005

Yeah, this is norrmal.
posted by orthogonality at 10:31 AM on May 5, 2005

The switching nostril thing is pretty intuitive once you accept the idea that your nostrils need downtime (or else they'd dry out or get inflamed or something undesirable).
posted by Aknaton at 2:59 PM on May 5, 2005

I get it in the winter and allergy months and I hit the Flonase.
posted by frenetic at 3:37 PM on May 5, 2005

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