My dose is bocked
February 2, 2006 5:08 PM   Subscribe

EndMyPermanentStuffedNoseFilter: I've had an on and off stuffed up nose for pretty much my whole life, meaning I'd estimate my nose is clear maybe 10% of the time. What can I do to fix this?

Basically, I've got recurring nasal congestion that just *won't* go away. I've still got my tonsils, but have had my adenoids out. It's a real problem, because I can't breath through my nose at night, and end up with a mouth like a birdcage every morning, and feeling like utter doom. I also snore like an earthquake, apparently. I've tried those nose-strip things, but they didn't seem to do any good. To answer some of the main queries, I've always been relatively fit (I was in the military reserve a couple of years ago), I now do an office job and spend half my life in air-conditioned buildings. Any one have any ideas what could be causing this? Or anything that could relieve the symptoms? (Not overly keen on drugs, and definitely not on surgery). Any help appreciated!
posted by Happy Dave to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Ask your doc if it could be a deviated septum, maybe? But that's taken care of via corrective surgery. I used to know a couple of people who had it done, and said they were breathing a lot easier afterwards, but mileage varies, as with everything.
posted by Gator at 5:14 PM on February 2, 2006

Or possibly sinus polyps? (Disclaimer: link is to discussion of surgery, and how great it was for most of us.)
posted by scody at 5:21 PM on February 2, 2006

I'm assuming that you've already tersed your living space for things that you may be allergic to (pets, plants, dust, whatever).

There's also a condition called "sinusitis" that might explain your problem.
posted by Ms Snit at 5:24 PM on February 2, 2006

You're best going to an ENT to Dx the problem, and I wouldn't rule out surgery since it's bothering you enough to post this thread. In the meantime, I would recommend a Neti pot. They're damn funny looking and the idea is ludicrous, but they really do wonders for sinusitis and similar things.
posted by kcm at 5:35 PM on February 2, 2006

I came in this thread to recommend the neti pot as well. it's worth a shot. I've been using it for several years now and i won't ever stop now that I breathe in the benefits.

It may not be the solution to all of your problems but it could help.
posted by freudianslipper at 6:18 PM on February 2, 2006

...and end up with a mouth like a birdcage every morning, and feeling like utter doom. I also snore like an earthquake...

That's no way to live. Get yourself checked for apnea (see a sleep specialist). It's not just a problem for the overweight -- genetic predisposition plays a large part.

The same specialist should also be able to give you a long list of potential reasons for your stuffed nose, as well as examining your nose in depth.
posted by tkolar at 7:01 PM on February 2, 2006

You don't need a netipot to breathe steam. A teapot and a towel do exactly the same damn thing.
posted by frogan at 7:02 PM on February 2, 2006

In the same vein as the steam/neti pot, I've found that rinsing my sinus cavitities with warm salt water helps tremendously. After moving to NYC five years ago, my sinuses went haywire from all the pollution. Several different people, including a doctor, made the suggestion. It seemed a little icky at first, but it's really not bad. I usually do it in the shower- just cup some warm water in my hand, hold my breath, and then tip back my head and pour it down my nostrils (you don't have to snort it). Then lean over and let it run back out.
posted by kimdog at 7:14 PM on February 2, 2006

Worked for me when neti, steam, saline, Alkalol (traditional mucous solvent) didn’t. Shower not required; I keep a bottle by bed and in briefcase. Won’t travel without it.
posted by dpcoffin at 7:34 PM on February 2, 2006

This sounds like a food allergy (seriously). Clogged sinuses are usually due to dairy foods. Try eliminating dairy (especially milk, ice cream, mochas/lattes, etc) from your diet. It'll take about 2 weeks, but then you should be feeling much better.

For better results, see an allergist and get a skin test & blood test for allergies. (skin test will tell about pollen, animals, etc; blood test will tell about foods)

A friend did this, and the difference was night and day..almost no more snoring, much reduced cases of sinusitus, better sleep (this was a contributing factor to her sleep apnea).
posted by jpeacock at 8:05 PM on February 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

The neti pot is not about steam. It looks like a tea kettle, but is much smaller--about the size of a tea cup with a spout that seals to one nostril, and the idea is that you lean over and pour water into the higher nostril, and it pours out the other nostril, carrying snot as it goes. This would work if your problem was snot.

If you've had it most of your life, most likely is not sinusitis, as you would be sick, generally speaking. Allergic rhinitis, which is a noninfectious hypersensitive inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose, along with its related cousins asthma and sensitivity to aspirin, can lead to polyps, which are outpouchings of the mucous membranes of the nose. These overgrowths can then clog the nasal passages, sometimes completely obstructing them. However, nasal polyps grow and shrink according to how active your atopy (out of place inflammation) is. This is a distinct possibility.

A deviated septum can do this as well, but usually it only results in one clogged nostril, not surprisingly due to the septum deviating to that side and narrowing that nostril. This is also a possibility, although less likely given your description.

I'd be interested to hear if the neti pot does. Sudafed might have a similar affect, simply by decreasing the amount of snot produced. I'm a little leery of the Xlear, which, although has a slick website, is little more that saline (salt water) with a fancy sugar molecule (xylitol is a form of sugar), and the food allergy issue, which, although entirely possible, is a little too flavor of the month for me. Typically, though, food allergies present with gastrointestinal complaints, like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. I'm leery about it because suddenly everybody seems to have a food allergy, although the prevalence as described in Griffith's 5-minute clinical consult is from 1-7 percent, making it uncommon at best. What can I say, allegorical evidence ("my friend...") is king in the patient world, whereas scientific evidence ("10,000 patients were tested in a randomized double blinded study...") is king in the medical world.

The bottom line is you have something blocking air flow through your nose, which is significantly affecting your life. (gee thanks) Go see an otolaryngologist, aka an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Only they have the necessary equipment to correctly diagnose and treat your problem.
posted by gilgul at 9:02 PM on February 2, 2006

gilgul has the right idea. Go and see an otolaryngologist right away. I had the exact same problems - with the added "bonus" of a constant cough because I could only breathe through my mouth, and it was getting worse every year.

About two years ago, I finally went to see an otolaryngologist, who was able to immediately say that in addition to a deviated septum, I had enlarged turbinates. I had a turbinectomy a few months later. Although it was not particularly pleasant, it really helped me out. I still have some problems, including some dryness, but it really helped. Most of my current issues are alleviated with a neti pot.
posted by gemmy at 9:47 PM on February 2, 2006

Gilgul: While the term "allergy" is overused, dairy DOES increase the amount of mucous produced (as do many spicy foods, counterintuitively). The reduction of dairy in a diet is a cheap and easy thing to check, and should be a first step, if only to rule it out.
posted by klangklangston at 10:09 PM on February 2, 2006

above two posts nailed it.

if you've been having this problem for so long, you really need to go see an ENT/otolaryngologist. all the neti pots and saline sprays and whatever else is out in the market won't do you squat.

a trip to the ENT might be fun. they'll look up yr nose, squirt up some stuff to decongest you, and look summore. they might even stick a small fiber-optic camera up there, and show you what's going on via TV! WOO! if they do that, ask them to go further so you can see yr vocal cords wiggle as they flash a strobe.

xylitol's actually pretty cool. it's a 5-carbon molecule that tastes sweet. it isn't metabolized by bacteria, and studies have actually shown that xylitol gum reduces cavities n stuff by this mechanism. but i wouldn't count on it for fixing what yr dealing with.

so go! it'll be fun, educational, and you'll prolly be able to breathe with some treatment n stuff.
posted by herrdoktor at 10:13 PM on February 2, 2006

My wife, much the same. She's done the allergist, the various steroid meds, the filtration, the nasal irrigation, etc.

She is finally going to go for surgery.

I am so looking forward to her getting a good sleep, not catching colds all the time, and being happier.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:02 PM on February 2, 2006

On the off chance that you use OTC decongestant sprays, you should be aware that they can cause chronic rebound congestion.
posted by Neiltupper at 2:06 AM on February 3, 2006

There are some good ideas and suggestions in this thread, but I wanted to pipe up with the whole deviated septum angle. I've been knocked in the nose a few times, and one day realized that when I can't seem to clear my nose, if I manipulate the cartilage a little bit, I seem to be able to "readjust" things and breathe better.
It definitely sounds like there's more to it than just that for you, but moving your nose about certainly can't hurt (as long as you do so gently) and you can do it while you're on the phone making the appointment with an ENT.
posted by Iamtherealme at 2:17 AM on February 3, 2006

I'll join the chorus of those who send you to a good(!) ear, nose and throat surgeon. Make sure you're not getting to a surgery happy one - so not to have an unneeded Septoplasty (if you are told that you have a deviated septum, keep in mind that many people have a slightly deviated septum).

I had a similar problem and went with a Somnoplasty (reduces turbinates inside the nose) which was the smallest scale procedure that seemed would help me and it did.

good luck!
posted by mirileh at 3:56 AM on February 3, 2006

The Neti pot has changed my life. I use it twice a day and have no breathing problems at all. You can pick one up at your local health food type store (Earth Fare, Whole Foods).
posted by Classic Diner at 6:36 AM on February 3, 2006

I have always had a stuffed up nose as well. I found out a few years ago that I have a deviated septum. I'm a little nervous about surgery, but I have found that using Breath-Right strips (the brandname ones - not the generic) help at night. I'm also on a few prescription allergy medications.
Also, I have a friend who suffered for 20+ years with a non-functioning nose, only to find that he had tons of polups. He had them removed and started breathing much better. Good luck.
posted by tom_g at 7:08 AM on February 3, 2006

Enough with this dairy non-sense.

You've had this for your whole life. You can't breath. It's not what you eat. It's anatomical. Go see an otolaryngologist.
posted by drpynchon at 7:13 AM on February 3, 2006

Hi everyone - thanks for all your comments, there's a lot of food for thought here. I guess I'm going to go down the ENT route first, although I'm in the middle of moving house at the moment, so I figure it can wait a couple of weeks until I'm moved and can find a new doctor. I'd definitely say that I think it's something physical rather than an allergy - I have sporadic eczema that's set off by cats (little bastards make me sneeze too) but since I haven't had a cat in my home for a good three years now, I'm willing to bet the last cat I lived with merely aggravated rather than caused it. I'm going to be bookmarking this thread and coming back to it once I have the ENT verdict - stay tuned!
posted by Happy Dave at 5:34 PM on February 3, 2006

Hello all

I'm not sure if there's any way to see if old posts on Ask Mefi have been updated, so I have no idea if anyone will read this or not, but I thought I'd update. Basically, after suffering from three bouts of tonsilitis in the past three months, I went to see an ENT consultant. While I was there, I described all the symptoms in my top post, and after a thorough exam, he told me:
- I do have a deviated septum, which is one of the causes of my permanently blocked nose
- I also have extremely scarred and swollen tonsils from years of tonsilitis

Basically, he said that it looks like my tonsils collapse back into my throat when I'm asleep, blocking the airway and stopping me breathing for 20-30 seconds at a time. I essentially choke, wake up just enough to move/roll over and clear the obstruction, then instantly fall asleep. AKA Obstructive Sleep Apnea. He said that I will be slipping in and out of consciousness several hundred times a night, meaning that in an average eight hour sleep period, I'll maybe actually sleep for only around three or four hours. Which is why I feel so rubbish all the time.

So, next week, I'm off to get my tonsils out, which should hopefully sort out most of the problems. Then they're going to do a sleep study to see if it's necessary to fix the deviated septum. To say I'm happy about this and what it could mean for my quality of life is a massive understatement. I'm ecstatic.

Anyway, thanks MeFi - your input helped me decide to get this checked out and helped me go into it far better informed than I would have. The hive mind rocks!
posted by Happy Dave at 3:27 AM on May 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Congrats, Dave. Here's hoping your username will soon be Happier Dave! Had my tonsils snipped a while back after recurring infection bouts and difficulty breathing for years. Yes, it's not fun to do as an adult, but the results (in my case) were easily worth the discomfort. And, of course, apnea has to be diagnosed and treated. Good on ya!
posted by rob511 at 2:10 PM on May 2, 2006

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