Having blocked nostrils is not a palatable experience and there is a high chance you have wondered why one feels more clogged than the other.
The good news is that there is a scientific explanation behind it and it has being credited to a physiological response called the nasal cycle.The nasal cycle is a process where your nostrils take turns sucking in more air.
Why Does One Nostril Get More Congested?
The structures that exist in both sides of your nose known as the inferior turbinates are responsible for warming and humidifying air before it reaches your lungs. This action protects your lungs by reducing dryness and irritation.
The process is a lot of work and this makes the nose channel its resources more to one side than the other to make the process a smooth and efficient one. It sends more blood flow to one nostril, which warms the air coming in through there, but also causes the turbinate on that side to swell.
That swelling means there’s less room for air to make its way in. It is quite subtle and may go unnoticed except you have a cold, infection, allergies, or a structural problem like a deviated septum.
When you fall sick however, the amount of blood flowing to your nose increases even more and this results in more swelling and greater mucus production in your nasal region.
Despite the fact that you are congested throughout your entire nose, you feel it more strongly in the one nostril where the turbinate is already swollen as part of the normal nasal cycle.
How to Treat Your Congestion
There is very little you can do to shut off the nasal cycle and you have every chance of feeling that one nostril is more stuffed up than the other when you fall sick. However, after about 90 minutes to 4 hours, your nose switches sides.
When that occurs, there is a huge chance that you will feel some relief when the swelling in the one nostril goes down, but then the other side will start to feel clogged instead.
The best thing to do is to work on easing the congestion in both nostrils. Steam from a hot shower or humidifier can help open the floodgates. Saline nasal sprays can also do a good job in helping to flush out mucus, too.
Consider topical nasal congestion sprays that contain oxymetazoline, as this helps to constrict blood vessels, but they should be a last resort. The reason is that such sprays can cause a rebound congestion, which may make your nose become addicted to them, so much so that your nostrils will rely on them to open up.
If you must use them, stick to two puffs a day for no more than five to seven days. If your symptoms persist beyond 10 to 14 days, or you notice nasal congestion at times other than when you’re sick, you may want to check in with your doctor to make sure that something bigger such as a deviated septum isn’t at play.