Breathe easy: Relieving nasal blockages

Written by: Mr Joe Marais
Edited by: Karolyn Judge

Another day, another blocked nose. Do you have a cold? Is it allergies? Will it always be this way, or is there a cure?


Here to answer some of the most frequently-asked questions about – and to provide welcome solutions to - this common condition is leading consultant rhinologist, nasal plastic & ENT surgeon Mr Joe Marais.

Box of tissues and nasal spray for nasal blockages

Why is my nose blocked, even if I don’t have a cold?

Nasal blockage is amongst the most common complaints I have to deal with and there are a number of causes. The nasal septum (cartilage partition in the middle of the nose) may be bent, either from previous injury, or it may have just grown that way. Nasal polyps may block the airway, or there may be inflammation of the internal nasal lining (‘rhinitis’). Sometimes the internal nasal nerves cause the lining to become swollen, which can also cause blockage.


Of course, sinusitis, like the common cold, can also cause obstruction. Overuse of decongestant nasal drops/spray can also cause chronic nasal blockage. Allergies can of course also be the underlying cause. In many patients, (whatever the underlying cause) the blockage alternates from side to side.



How long can a blocked nose last?

Nasal blockage, depending on the cause, may be permanent. We know that we get a blocked nose from a common cold, but if it persists for more than a month, then something else is probably not right and a medical - preferably an ENT doctor’s - opinion should be sought.



Can a blocked nose be dangerous when sleeping?

No, a blocked nose is not dangerous when sleeping and will not result in harm coming to the sufferer, but it is very unpleasant and may aggravate other conditions like snoring and sleep apnoea.


Generally, sleep disruption is on one of the most common and most annoying aspects for a blocked-nose sufferer. This is because it necessitates mouth-breathing, which causes a very dry, parched mouth and throat and results in the sufferer awaking many times during the night - often to have a relieving sip of water. This sleep disruption causes excess tiredness the next day and if it’s happening every night, the individual becomes chronically fatigued, lethargic and constantly tired with no energy.



When should you visit a doctor for a blocked nose?

If a month passes, with no let-up in your nasal blockage you should see a doctor. Initially, GPs will often prescribe a nasal steroid spray/drops to see if the anti-inflammatory effect will lessen the symptoms. These should be used daily for best effect, but if there’s no improvement after four weeks you should consider seeing a specialist.



How do you cure a blocked nose?

This depends on the cause. For allergies, for instance, avoidance of the offending allergen (e.g., cats or feathers) can produce improvement. However, if an inflammatory element is present, such as rhinitis, polyps, sinusitis etc, a nasal steroid spray/drops may help.


Physical obstruction by a deviated nasal septum, severe nasal polyps or sinusitis will usually require surgery - although this is highly effective in resolving the blockage in most cases.




If you’re looking for relief for a blocked nose or have concerns about other rhinology, nasal plastic or ENT conditions, arrange an appointment with Mr Marais via his Top Doctors profile.

By Mr Joe Marais
Otolaryngology / ENT

Mr Joe Marais is a renowned consultant rhinologist, nasal plastic and ENT surgeon based in London, who treats a wide range of conditions and holds a special interest in rhinoplasty, septoplasty, nasal deformity and sinus surgery.

Mr Marais trained as a junior doctor at London’s renowned Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital before relocating to Edinburgh to complete further training. In 1996, he was awarded intercollegiate fellowship of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons and later gained invaluable experience under some of the world’s leading ENT surgeons in Texas, USA and later in Toronto, Canada in sub-specialist fellowships. He was appointed as a consultant rhinologist, nasal plastic and ENT surgeon in 2000 in London. Mr Marais is a highly experienced and respected expert in his field and he often receives tertiary referrals of challenging and complex cases from other colleagues.

Mr Marais has published a number of academic papers and has lectured nationally and internationally on his areas of expertise. Additionally, he teaches postgraduate medical trainees for the Royal College of Surgeons and is also involved in the training of junior ENT surgeons. He recently appeared on the BBC’s The One Show to give an expert demonstration of sinus surgery.

Mr Marais is a member of numerous esteemed professional bodies, including ENT_UK and the European Rhinological Society. He is also an allied associate member of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS). Patient care is central to Mr Marais and he aims to provide the best outcomes possible for his patients.

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