What can I do to clear a chronically blocked nostril?

If the blockage is troublesome or both sides of your nose block up, this may be due to a nasal allergy. For persistent symptoms, it is advisable to have your nose examined by a specialist.

Q: I am a 22-year-old man who has a nasal problem. One of my nostrils is always blocked.

I have been using nasal spray. While it does clear the blockage, the other nostril will get blocked instead.

If I spray into both nostrils, both of the nostrils will be cleared but the effect will last for only 15 minutes or so.

What can I do so that I can breathe normally again? I do snore at night and I used to have childhood asthma.

A: It is normal for one side of the nose to feel more blocked than the other and for this to change from side to side through the day.

This is known as the nasal cycle and usually goes unnoticed.

However, if the blockage is troublesome or both sides of your nose block up, this may be due to a nasal allergy.

Nasal sprays can be very effective in relieving symptoms but if you need them for more than a few days, then a steroid spray is preferable to a decongestant spray.

Low-dose steroid sprays in the nose are safe and generally free of side-effects, but decongestant sprays can damage the nose lining if used for too long.

You will need a doctor's prescription to get a steroid nasal spray.

While sprays provide relief of symptoms and can be used in the long term, they do not cure the underlying cause.

For persistent symptoms, it is advisable to have your nose examined by a specialist.

The specialist will look into your nose with a small flexible camera to see whether there are other causes for the blockage, such as polyps and deformities of the internal structures of the nose.

There are a number of surgical procedures that can provide long-lasting relief for nasal blockage. The simplest of these uses a small probe to shrink the swollen lining in the nose and can be performed painlessly in an outpatient clinic.

You can discuss the options with an ear, nose and throat specialist.

Finally, because allergy may be contributing to your symptoms, an allergy test, either with a blood test or a simple skin test, may be useful.

These tests can help identify airborne irritants (and sometimes food) that you may need to avoid.

DR DAVID LAU
Consultant otorhinolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat surgeon) at Raffles ENT Centre


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