Blocked nose (nasal obstruction) – Part One

A blocked nose is the commonest symptom described. It can either be intermittent or persistent. Causes are many and varied. They include allergy, viral infection, injury to the nose, a bent septum and nose, etc.

The function of our nose is to clean, filter, humidify and warm the environmental air before it reaches our delicate lungs. This function is suitably served by the turbinates in the nose and especially the inferior turbinates. If the environmental air is polluted or carries allergens to which a person is sensitive, the nose responds immediately by increasing blood flow to the turbinates. The effects are predictable, and actually physiological i.e. normal responses of the body :

  1. The turbinates swell to prevent the polluted air from entering the nose and lungs
    “ Doctor, my nose is blocked ”

  2. The improved blood flow increases nasal secretions, that attempts to cleanse the nose
    “ I have a running nose and it drips down the back of my throat ”

  3. The nasal sensations are heightened, causing the nose to expel out the pollutants/ allergens forcibly
    “ I sneeze a lot “

If the condition is an acute viral inflammation, other signs of viral infections are apparent e.g. fever, muscle aches, headaches, tiredness. Viral infections however last only a few days, and usually the average person contracts this 1-2 times a year, usually during the Winter season.

However allergic, vasomotor or pollution-related type rhinitis (inflammation of the nose) happens every day, or predominantly throughout the year, without fever or aches, are more common. This is the nose reacting to the constant presence of pollutants, allergens, etc.

The treatment for the nose condition depends entirely on the most likely cause, and is best discussed with your physician. It includes conservative treatment as well as surgery to improve the nasal airway diameter.