Although it’s a common occurrence, nothing is stranger than the feeling of having one nostril be completely clogged, while the other is perfectly clear. It can happen when you’re sick or dealing with allergies, but sometimes you may notice that you simply wake up after a good night’s rest with a stuffed up nostril, seemingly for no reason at all. While it’s annoying, the good news is that a blocked nostril can typically be resolved. In fact, you can often address the root cause of the problem and start breathing easier with a few simple lifestyle modifications.
What Causes Your Nose to Get Clogged on 1 Side?
There are plenty of reasons your nose may get clogged on one side, whether you’re battling a cold or allergies or otherwise feeling fine. To get better insight on this topic, POPSUGAR spoke to Anthony Cornetta, MD, a board-certified otolaryngologist at NYU Langone, who lists several likely culprits.
Your Normal Nasal Cycle
According to Dr. Cornetta, the body naturally undergoes something called the “nasal cycle” in which congestion alternates between your two nostrils. This happens when the nasal turbinate, a small structure in the nose that cleans and humidifies the air you breathe, gets clogged.
“The inferior turbinate is the one that causes limited airflow when congested,” Dr. Cornetta says. “The turbinate can also be swollen on one side more than the other from allergies.” To correct the issue, he recommends a nasal steroid or nasal antihistamine spray. If the problem persists and interferes with your quality of life, it’s time to see a doctor.
Side sleeping is a cozy position for many of us, but if you suffer from a clogged nostril, you may want to consider shifting the way you sleep. “Side sleeping can definitely cause nasal congestion,” Dr. Cornetta tells POPSUGAR. “The side down to the pillow will get more stuffy due to gravity.” To fix this, Dr. Cornetta suggests sleeping in a slightly elevated position, propped up on pillows.
A Deviated Septum
“The nasal septum is the middle partition of the nose that separates the right and left nasal cavity,” Dr. Cornetta explains. “A deviated septum is when this partition is crooked or misshapen.” When the thin wall that separates your nostrils gets displaced to one particular side, your nostrils become different sizes. Breathing through the smaller side is more difficult and can create the feeling that one side of your nose is chronically clogged.
“This is very common and rarely is anyone’s septum perfectly straight,” Dr. Cornetta says. “A deviated septum does not need to be related to trauma. It often occurs as our facial bones grow and develop. Correcting a deviated septum requires surgery.” If you’re concerned that you have a deviated septum, talk to your doctor.
Nasal polyps can grow inside the nose and obstruct breathing, although Dr. Cornetta says this is rare and is accompanied by other symptoms such as forehead pressure and a loss of taste or smell. “They usually stem from allergies but not always,” he notes. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it’s recommended that you see a doctor right away. Once diagnosed with nasal polyps, your doctor may prescribe a nasal spray, oral medication, and in some cases, steroid injections or surgery depending on the severity.
When Should You Seek Medical Attention For a Stuffy Nose?
You don’t need to be concerned about a more serious underlying condition to see a doctor for a blocked nose. “Nasal congestion is a very common problem. It can affect a person’s daily life and often affects sleep as well,” Dr. Cornetta says. “There are many over-the-counter nasal and oral medications that people may try. However, someone should seek medical attention whenever the nasal congestion significantly affects their quality of life.”