How to Get Rid of Nasal Congestion

Aggressive blowing could lead to some pretty nasty consequences. Here's how to blow your nose the right way.

Aggressive blowing could lead to some pretty nasty consequences.

By Paul Nicolaus, Men’s Health

Your latest bout with the cold has you tethered to an entire box of tissues. You know the drill. Blow. Toss. Repeat. No matter how often you unclog your drain, though, that mucus just keeps on coming. Sometimes it seems like there’s no end in sight.

It’s a familiar scenario and typically a harmless one, too, but some unexpected dangers are lurking in all that snot. It turns out that blowing too hard can actually cause some real damage. So what’s the worst that could happen?

Aggressive Blowers Beware

While incredibly rare, some real doozies have been documented in medical literature, including a ruptured esophagus and severe headache caused by air pushed into the skull. Although highly unlikely, it’s also possible to perforate your eardrum or fracture your eye socket, according to Vanessa Rothholtz, MD, of Pacific Coast Ear Nose and Throat.

There are reports of complications impacting otherwise healthy individuals, but these more bizarre cases tend to involve an underlying issue stemming from previous surgery or trauma. If there is a defect in the bone that separates the eye or brain from the nose, then vigorous blowing could push air into these spaces, explains ear, nose and throat specialist Robert Keller, MD, who practices at Colorado ENT and Allergy. And this could lead to more serious issues affecting vision or the central nervous system.

It may not be likely that you’ll do any significant harm by grabbing a tissue and letting ’er rip, but there are less dramatic, more common risks to be aware of. Forceful nose blowing can rupture small blood vessels and lead to nosebleeds, for example, and one study demonstrated that it can push nasal mucus into the sinuses. While not entirely proven, this suggests an increased risk of developing a full-fledged ear or sinus infection from your run-of-the-mill cold.

Clear Your Nose Like the Pros

Considering the risks both regular and rare, experts suggest ditching the mighty double-barrel blow and replacing it with a gentler approach. Tackling one nostril at a time can help limit the increases in pressure that most complications are related to, and the use of appropriate treatments may lessen the force needed to clear your nose.

An oral decongestant or nasal decongestant spray can help open the nasal passageway and promote drainage, says Omid B. Mehdizadeh, MD, an otolaryngologist and laryngologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, but a decongestant spray should not be used for more than three consecutive days or a “rebound effect” could cause your symptoms to worsen.

Yet another option is clearing your nose without having to blow at all. Consider using a saline (salt water) spray or gentle irrigation to move the mucus out of the nasal passages, recommends Bradford A. Woodworth, MD, a professor with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Otolaryngology.

“This tends to work the best,” he says, “and is what I use every time I get a cold.”
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Health Magazine: How to Get Rid of Nasal Congestion
How to Get Rid of Nasal Congestion
Aggressive blowing could lead to some pretty nasty consequences. Here's how to blow your nose the right way.
Health Magazine
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