Nasal Congestion :: Nationwide Children's Hospital

Nasal Congestion

What is nasal congestion?

Nasal congestion, nasal obstruction, and mouth breathing are all descriptions of a similar condition where the nasal passages (breathing pathway through the nose) are blocked, resulting in the sensation of difficulty breathing through the nose. This condition can also cause snoring, difficulty sleeping, and nosebleeds (epistaxis) because of turbulent airflow. This can result in drying (dessication) of the mucous membranes lining the nose.

Nasal congestion can cause discomfort and interfere with normal patterns of breathing and sleep, but is not a painful condition.

What are some causes of nasal congestion?

Nasal congestion can be caused by:

  • Enlarged inferior turbinate tissue in the nose
  • Deviation of the nasal septum (the bone that separates the nose into two cavities)
  • Nasal polyps (inflammatory tissue)
  • Congenital narrowing of the nose (pyriform aperture stenosis)
  • Enlarged adenoid tissue or tumors in the nose or nasal cavity

How is nasal congestion/nasal obstruction evaluated?

If your child has these symptoms, a thorough history and careful examination of your child’s nose can reveal the source(s) of potential blockage. Additional testing, either during the office visit, or in a separate setting may also be recommended. These tests include a fiber optic camera examination (“scope”) of the portions of the nose and nasal cavity not able to be seen with standard in-office examination, a sleep study (polysomnogram) or radiology testing.

These additional tests may be necessary to help to determine the type, source and location of nasal congestion in your child.

What is the treatment for nasal congestion/nasal obstruction?

Treatment of this condition is aimed at the underlying cause of the nasal congestion, and may involve medications, surgery or a combination of both.

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