Simple at-home remedies for a stuffy nose

Simple at-home remedies for a stuffy nose

With respiratory infections such as cold, flu, COVID and RSV on the rise, you may be on the search for remedies that can help ease nasal congestion, also referred to as a stuffy nose.

“The most important tip of fighting cold and flu season begins with covering coughs and sneezes and practicing good hand hygiene,” says Amber Schmitz, a nurse practitioner and an Aurora Health Care Quick Care Virtual Health teammate.

Schmitz shares that it’s important to understand the difference between a viral infection versus a bacterial infection. Cold, flu and COVID are all viral illnesses that typically last 7-10 days and go away on their own. Antibiotics treat bacterial infections and cannot help with viral infections. However, at-home remedies can help ease the common symptom of a runny or stuffy nose.

Schmitz gives the following tips for at-home nasal congestion relief:

  • Drink lots of fluids. Staying hydrated helps to keep mucous thin and loose.
  • Apply a warm, moist compress to your sinuses 4-6 times a day to help with sinus drainage.
  • Use a sterile saline rinse three times a day or nasal saline spray.
  • Try using a cool mist humidifier, which can help with dry air.
  • Elevate your head while sleeping by propping up a few, comfortable pillows. This will prevent pooling of mucous in the sinus passage.

Adults may also follow these additional instructions:

  • Drink warm tea with honey.
  • Gargle saltwater or try throat lozenges for sore throat.
  • Tips for over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, or those medications that don’t need a doctor’s prescription may include:
    • Take expectorants to thin mucus or phlegm, so it can become easier to blow, cough or spit the mucus.
    • Use a nasal spray in each nostril for nasal congestion.
    • If needed, acetaminophen may be taken for fever or aches. Do not exceed 4,000mg in 24 hours.

Before taking any medication, consult with your doctor and thoroughly read and adhere to the label instructions. If you have questions or are unsure about the medication, contact your provider.

For those under 18 years of age, at-home remedies need to be adjusted to the following:

  • Gargle saltwater if the child is able to follow instructions.
  • Use mentholated rubs over the chest and front of neck. This can help soothe a cough.
  • Throat lozenges may be given to children 4 years and older for a sore throat. It’s important to follow the package instructions and thoroughly watch and remain present while the child consumes the lozenge.
  • Nasal mucus suction devices can help younger children find relief.
  • Honey may also help a cough. Do not give honey to babies under 1 year of age. Schmitz says to follow these recommendations:
    • 1-5 years old: ½ teaspoon
    • 6-11 years old: 1 teaspoon
    • 12 years and older: 2 teaspoons of honey

Consult with your child’s pediatrician before giving any medication. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t give over-the-counter cough and cold medications to children under 6 years of age as these medications can have serious side effects.

Schmitz encourages video visits for minor illnesses like cold, flu or sinus infections since they can be more convenient when you are under the weather.

“With telehealth, it’s important to use common sense,” says Schmitz. “If you think you’re experiencing a medical emergency or having difficulty breathing, dial 911.”

Quick Care Video Visits are available 24/7 for anyone 2 and older. To learn more and view the full list of conditions and symptoms, visit

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  1. I found that putting or halls in a cup of hot water and drink it dow as tea and it worked for me, smelling the menthol opens up the sinuses

  2. How about neti pots? It’s my go to when I’m all stuffed up.

  3. A kiddie hot toddy (Honey, a little lemon juice, and warm black tea) is good for the throat and for relaxation. Neti pots work nice, but make sure to wash the pot between uses and use purified water, as tap water may have bacteria that can make things worse. I just use regular saline nasal spray. Clove oil (diluted with almond oil) works for me, as well as peppermint oil, to open up the nasal passages. Vicks Vaporub or a reasonable substitute (health food stores may have a tea tree oil version) also work nicely.

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About the Author

Liz Fitzgerald
Liz Fitzgerald

Liz Schoenung, health enews contributor, is an integrated marketing manager at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Corporate Communication from Marquette University.  Outside of work, Liz has a goal of visiting all U.S. national parks.