nasal congestion vs constricted sinuses?
June 10, 2022 11:44 AM   Subscribe

My nostrils feel constricted but not "stuffed" (like, there's no mucus AFAICT)... is this called something other than "nasal congestion"? And do I take Claritin or something else?

I think I'm having an allergic reaction after being outdoors. But I don't have a runny nose, or itchy eyes (although my throat is a little itchy.) It's just that when I breathe in through my nose, it is harder to get a full breath in, and the feeling is one of the nasal passages being semi-blocked or inflamed (?) Breathing through my mouth is fine, so this isn't a medical emergency, I'm just wondering if that is called something distinct from "nasal congestion" or "stuffed sinuses" or whatever, and if so, if a particular type of allergy medicine would be more effective than for one that specifically tries to reduce mucus.
posted by O Time, Thy Pyramids to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Maybe try Afrin? When I feel like that, that stuff works like magic.

You have to take care not to use it too often, though.
posted by Dr. Wu at 11:48 AM on June 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I wish I could remember the technical term my doctor used, but it was basically that the tissue in my nasal passages was swollen. Turned out to be allergies, and Flonase spray works beautifully.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:02 PM on June 10, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Rhinitis might be the term you heard, and allergic rhinitis specifically. A non-snotty nose is still referred to as congestion, technically, but that's the name of the symptom and not the cause.

I usually take Claritin when it happens (or more often a generic, since Costco practically give the stuff away). If you have used it before and have no particular reason to avoid it then I don't see how it would hurt.

Reducing nasal inflammation is also what psueodoepehdrine does - friends swear by the stuff, but I can't say I've noticed it doing much for me - I seem to be an exception, though. That's the good Sudafed (or, again, generic - the drugstores all have an own brand version) where you have to show your driving licence to get hold of it in case you're using it to make meth. (Don't make meth. Making meth is bad.)

I don't think anything stops you taking both at the same time, but check that with your pharmacist rather than trusting the internet.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 12:32 PM on June 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nasal congestion also covers what's happening to you - that just means that your nasal passages are blocked up with something. Most of the time that something is mucus, but sometimes your nasal passages themselves being swollen is either the cause of, or an exacerbator of, that problem.

I have the same issue with allergies sometimes, and with me it also sometimes manifests with sinus headaches. I use Flonase spray to stop the allergic reactions, and if I'm not quick enough on the draw and I'm starting to get a sinus headache, I take just regular old ibuprofen. That not only quells the pain, it shrinks the nasal swelling that was part of the problem in the first place. (And sometimes it even releases the mucus that was trapped behind the swelling; sometimes when the headache is starting to fade, I'll suddenly give a couple of giant sneezes and then spend the next 20 minutes or so frequently blowing my nose, so I've assumed that's what's happening.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:34 PM on June 10, 2022

Best answer: +1 for this being allergic rhinitis

I had it for years, all through childhood. Eventually I got beconase on prescription in my late 20s and used it every day for a year or two. It pretty much blasted away the lining in my sinuses during that time - which means there’s nothing to get inflamed any more, so yay I can breathe through my nose - but it really hasn’t helped my sense of smell.
posted by rd45 at 1:00 PM on June 10, 2022

Best answer: Sounds like you are experiencing inflammation in your nose. Allergic rhinitis is inflammation of the nasal passages caused by an allergen, which can cause a runny nose, but not necessarily. Here's guidelines for the treatment of allergic rhinitis from the American Family Physician. They recommend nasal corticosteroids like Flonase and second-generation antihistamines like Claritin or Zyrtec.
posted by reren at 1:09 PM on June 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, this sounds like allergies. I take a combination of Flonase and Zyrtec and it helps a lot. Afrin does work like magic, but it is very addictive and will make your life a living hell if you get hooked on it. I would recommend using it once, maybe twice, for instant relief while the other meds kick in.
posted by SamanthaK at 2:03 PM on June 10, 2022

Best answer: I have chronic allergic rhinitis and Zyrtec plus Flonase work best for me! But if Claritin is your antihistamine of choice, that plus Flonase should do it.

Take a Covid test, too, though—my first symptom was rhinitis, not a “stuffy” or runny nose !
posted by assenav at 2:51 PM on June 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: +1 for what assenav said. Definitely take a Covid test. I am a person with allergies, and my case of Covid presented very similarly to my allergies at the start (even though I didn't have much in the way of mucus, Mucinex, which thins things out to help with congestion, seemed to help me with the Covid symptoms).
posted by gudrun at 4:12 PM on June 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm experiencing exactly this the past couple of days, and have never have had more than mild allergies in the past. I'm 99% sure I've finally gotten Covid.
posted by Pryde at 7:36 PM on June 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

I get this badly with allergies. Using a steam mask helps a lot and so does a netti pot. Flonase used regularly gives me bloody noses, but I keep it on hand for when things really get bad. Alkaseltzer cold+ really helps immensely, but will certainly make you dozy. (Also note that it has aspirin and something similar to Benadryl, so make sure you can take it safely!)
posted by Bottlecap at 1:10 PM on June 11, 2022

Seconding SamanthaK, Afrin will make your life hellish if you get hooked. It's magical -- and then it works for progressively shorter periods of time, until it starts to feel like squirting acid up your nose and works not at all. I spent a significant portion of my pre-teen years in that condition, thanks to my dad, who was also in a hooked cycle on it and just wanted to help me, but...

A different magical substance is Zicam nasal spray - it's almost as effective as Afrin but about a billion times less addictive and traumatizing.

(Also just saying "fuck tomorrow" and downing two benadryl tabs can often do the trick.)
posted by invincible summer at 6:09 PM on June 11, 2022

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