6 Ways to Soothe Nasal Congestion with Moisture

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on August 8, 2021
  • man-breathing-fresh-air
    You can combat nasal congestion.
    Dealing with nasal congestion can make life miserable. It’s hard to breathe, sleep, or even taste your food. Over-the-counter decongestants are one option for relieving nasal congestion. And antihistamines can help if allergies are responsible for your symptoms. But there are other strategies you can use to combat congestion and breathe easier. Using moisture and humidity is one of the most effective.
  • glasses-of-water
    1. Keep your body hydrated.
    Moisture is your friend if you suffer with nasal congestion. Moisture thins mucus and keeps it moving out of your nose and sinuses. And one of the main ways to keep these areas moist is to stay hydrated. The best choice for maintaining hydration is water. But you can use other fluids, including sports drinks, juices, broths, and teas without caffeine. Stay away from caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, as these drinks tend to be dehydrating.
  • teapot-pouring-tea
    2. Drink steamy liquids.
    Hot drinks help nasal congestion in two ways. First, they keep you hydrated. Their steam adds a second benefit of helping open nasal passages. Soups and teas are good choices. You can add some extra spice—like pepper or hot sauce—to your soup. This extra zip will boost nasal congestion relief. And for teas, choose herbal varieties, such as peppermint or eucalyptus. Their aromatic vapors aid in relieving congestion.
  • shower-head
    3. Take a hot shower.
    The steam from a hot shower adds moisture to the air. Breathing this warm moisture can aid in opening your nasal passages. The shower enclosure keeps the steam contained. You can get the same effect running hot water in a sink, bending over the sink, and covering your head with a towel. Or fill a large bowl with steaming water and bend over it with a towel over your head and the bowl. Just make sure the steam isn’t hot enough to burn your face.
  • humidifer-in-room
    4. Use a humidifier or vaporizer.
    You can also add moisture to the air you breathe while you sleep using a humidifier. Humidifiers produce either a cool mist or hot steam. A vaporizer is another name for the hot steam version. They both effectively add moisture to the air. There are advantages to each. Cool mist is safer for children because there is no risk of burns. But they can be noisy. Hot steam is quieter and makes the room air feel a bit warmer. Be sure to clean your humidifier as the manufacturer recommends.
  • hand-holding-nasal-spray
    5. Choose saline nasal spray.
    Saline nasal sprays deliver moisture directly into your nasal passages. As with other forms of moisture, these sprays thin and soften mucus. They also soothe dry, irritated nasal linings with little to no side effects. There are even extra-moisturizing products containing aloe or in the form of saline gel. Saline sprays or drops are the safest choice for relieving nasal congestion in babies and children. A small rubber squeezable bulb syringe can help to gently suction secretions from the nostrils.
  • woman-with-cold-towel-on-forehead
    6. Apply a hot, steamy compress.
    Applying a hot compress to your nose and face can feel soothing for nasal congestion. Using a washcloth soaked in very warm water is the best choice if you want to add the benefit of moisture. Having the warm, steamy washcloth or towel in close proximity to your nose puts a little extra moisture in the air you’re breathing. Just make sure the temperature won’t burn your skin.
6 Ways to Soothe Nasal Congestion with Moisture

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
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  3. Common Cold. Nemours Foundation. http://kidshealth.org/parent/infections/common/cold.html#
  4. Cold Remedies: What Works, What Doesn't, What Can't Hurt. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/in-depth/cold-remedies/art-20046403
  5. Nasal Congestion. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/nasal-congestion/basics/causes/sym-20050644
  6. Stuffy or Runny Nose—Adult, MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003049.htm
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Last Review Date: 2021 Aug 8
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