How to Clear a Stuffy Nose Fast—And Get Back to Breathing Normally

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Blowing your nose to oblivion without dislodging any of the snot clogging it is the physiological equivalent of screaming into the void: Sheer force won’t change the reality of what you’re dealing with.

In the blocked-nose situation, at least, you’ve got other options. There are easy, effective ways to help you inhale normally, even when you swear the tissue box is straight-up mocking you. Here are the best methods out there for helping you unclog that schnoz, put the mouth-breathing lifestyle behind you, and find relief.

First, let’s look at why you might be so hellishly congested in the first place.

Getting a cold here and there is a (wack) fact of life, and it often comes with nasal congestion. Kevin Hur, MD, assistant professor of clinical otolaryngology at Keck School of Medicine of USC in Los Angeles, tells SELF that if your blocked nose doesn’t clear up within two weeks (by which time a cold should have left you alone), you should visit an otolaryngologist, a.k.a. an ear, nose, and throat specialist (or ENT). An ENT can use a small camera called an endoscope to see if there’s a physical blockage behind what’s going on, like nasal polyps or a deviated septum, or diagnose and treat another underlying issue causing your inner nostrils to swell and muck things up with snot.

If you know you don’t have a cold, the flu, or a sinus infection, there are other culprits that could be behind why your nose feels like it’s filled with cement: allergies, smoke exposure, and environmental pollution are all possible causes behind being miserably clogged. Certain lifestyle tweaks might help cut down on how often your nostrils are blocked or how severely that messes with your day. If you have allergies, try limiting your exposure to potential triggers (including everyone’s least favorite springtime assailant, pollen) to begin with. “Simple methods, like using HEPA filters in your home, keeping your windows closed, vacuuming carpets and rugs often, and keeping pets out of your bedroom” can make a world of difference, Taylor Carle, MD, an otolaryngologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Group in California, tells SELF. Antihistamines and other OTC decongestants might help, too.

Whatever you’re dealing with, there are a few solid means of finding relief in the here and now, other than (or in addition to!) making lifestyle tweaks or popping meds. Here’s how to get unstuffed.

How to unclog your nose and breathe normally again

1. Steam things up.

Yet another excuse to enjoy an extra-long and toasty shower: Taking big breaths of steamy or misty air can thin and loosen even the most stubborn gunk. “When you use a humidifier or steam, you’re diluting the mucus in your nose that’s stuck. It allows your body to open itself,” says Dr. Hur.

There are a few easy ways to try this out. Steaming up your bathroom with hot running water can help turn your nose into a running faucet. Aim to stay in the bath or shower with the door closed for 10 to 15 minutes to break up your boogers. But you don’t even need to jump in the shower to find relief from teeny-tiny droplets of water. If you want an even simpler option, deeply inhaling the steam rising off of a hot cup of water or tea for a few minutes can provide a little relief, too—and it comes with the benefit of being a solution you’re probably able to try at work or school.

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