Swollen Nostrils Symptoms, Causes, Risks and Relief


What does it mean when the nostrils and nasal passages become swollen? What symptoms do I expect and what causes this problem?


The swelling first begins with mucous membranes, which lines the entire nasal passages. Since these tissues are delicate, if the irritated or becomes inflamed or infected, it often results in mucosal thickening. This thickening can considerably reduce the opening in the nostrils.

Swelling can occur in either the left or right nostrils or both. This problem may be accompanied by other symptoms depending on various reasons behind the swelling. Read on to explore more on the symptoms, relief, and treatment for swollen nostrils.


Below is a brief discussion of the common symptoms that are expected to co-occur with swelling in the nose.

1. Nasal congestion

Congestion is a common and troublesome symptom highly expected. Many people often refer to it as a feeling of stuffiness or fullness in nostrils. It is attributed to secretion of thick mucus, cold infection and nasal allergies.

Congestion can lead to one side of your nostril being partly blocked or completely blocked, however; this will depend upon specific conditions you have at that moment.

2. Reduced sense to smell

Many people diagnosed with various nasal problems symptomized by congestion always complain that their sense of smell is affected or reduced. Sometimes this feature goes hand in hand with loss of appetite.

3. Breathing through mouth

Another symptom is difficulty in breathing through the nostrils. As a result, people resort to breathing in and out through the mouth especially when the symptoms are likely to worsen (for instance if the weather is cold often at night) if they breathe through their nose. 

4. Runny nose

Besides nasal congestion, people with this problem can sometimes experience a runny nose. It might be allergy-induced therefore, occur occasionally accompanied by sneezing repetitively.

5. Itchiness

Sometimes people do rubbing and pinching due to irritation as well as an itchy feeling. This is often seen in small children.

You should note these could not be the only symptoms. There could be others depending on the reason for the swelling. 


One of the causes of swollen nostrils is inflamed mucosa that lines the nasal passages. There are a number of factors that can cause this inflammation. These include infections or certain conditions such as.

1. Nasal polyps

A polyp (polyps) in the nasal passages is a problem that leads to swollen nostrils. These soft and painless growths often occur in the sinuses.

How does it bring about swelling in the nose? Nasal polyps can become enlarged especially if they are triggered or occur due to allergic rhinitis, asthma or seasonal allergies like hay fever. Sometimes people who have developed multiple nasal polyps may end up thinking they have chronic symptoms of a cold infection.

Polyps in nose usually cause the feeling of a blocked nose. Other symptoms include congestion, snoring at night and pressure feeling in the face.

2. Infectious rhinitis

Infectious rhinitis is the most common type of rhinitis that occurs in the upper respiratory system. The virus that causes cold is responsible for this type of rhinitis. Signs and symptoms of infectious rhinitis include

  • Itchiness
  • Sneezing
  • Congestion of nasal passages
  • Stuffiness in nose
  • Postnatal drip which causes phlegm in throat

Risk factors

These factors can increase the chances of swelling in the nose or lead to (trigger) mucosal thickening.

  • A sinus infection
  • Non-allergic or irritant rhinitis such as vasomotor rhinitis
  • Presence of sores in nose
  • Overuse of decongestant sprays
  • Deviated septum
  • High levels of estrogen hormone in women
  • Overgrowth of tumor and nasal bones
  • Genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis

How to get rid of the swelling

Treatment for swollen nostrils depends on the underlying causes or factors that lead to mucosal thickening. Common treatments include: 

1. Saline washes

Saline is another effective method of clearing specific swelling in nasal passages such as congestion. According to Healthline, saline sprays can work better by preventing the polyps from forming again.

Consider preservatives used in the conservation of nasal solutions. For instance, Benzalkonium chloride can worsen symptoms.

2. Decongestants

The mechanism of most decongestants allows for shrinking of nasal blood vessels. They are available in spray, vapor, inhalants, gels, tablets, etc.

The use of decongestants should be precautionary or on-purpose only because of possible side effects on blood vessels and other complications of using decongestants.

NOTE: Do not use decongestants in the nose for more than three days without your doctor’s guidance.

3. Nasal corticosteroids

Nasal corticosteroids are categorized under a group of drugs called anti-inflammatory. These medications are used to reduce inflammation in the nasal mucosae hence can effectively deal with swelling because of inflammation. Most corticosteroids are in spray form but your physician will determine the best method of administration in accordance with your problem.

The common over-the-counter nasal corticosteroid sprays - with their brand product names.

  • Mometasone furoate such as Nasonex
  • Triamcinolone
  • Fluticasone (Flonase, Flounce, etc.)
  • Beclomethasone such as Beconase and Vancenase
  • Flunisolide (Nasalide)

It is recommended that your doctor prescribe these medications because they may have side effects if used for longer period of time. These include effects on growth in children for expectant mothers.

IMPORTANT: Individuals with allergic rhinitis should avoid cromolyn nasal sprays.

4. Surgery

This is the last option for a swollen nostril whose symptoms seems to be persistent and chronic. However, before treatment, your doctor must closely examine your problem. Surgery is quite effective for removal of enlarged nasal polyps if they are considered a trigger for swelling inside the nose.

Consequently, this option can result in other problems for some patients. At least, surgery can lead to nosebleeds. Apparently, patients who end up with nose bleeding after surgery are liable to infections most of which cause damage to the sinuses.

Remedies to reduce or relieve it

How can you reduce swelling in the nostrils? Reducing swelling in your nasal passages can ease symptoms associated with breathing problems especially at night.

1. Nasal steroids

Steroids are used in reducing inflammation of mucosal tissues. Steroids can be used as either sprays or medicines. Medicines in most cases are available over the counter or prescription. Before using steroids, ask your pharmacist for advice on the best way to use them.

2. Warm compress

This remedy is meant for temporary effects of easing congestion in the nasal passage. It is quite effective and can give instant relief. The procedure is an easy do-it-yourself and is the cheapest remedy of all.

In your first option, you can use boiled water in clean bowls. Warming your nose will enhance blood circulation to the area of congestion.

Secondly, one may also fill your bathroom with steam while you take a warm bath or shower. Close the doors and shut the windows. This will help the sinuses to drain out allowing the passages to open up for quick relief.

3. Peppermint essential oil

This oil will help in opening up of congested nasal passages and soothe your nose from irritation.

  • Add 5 drops of peppermint oil to 1 teaspoon of coconut
  • Use this natural oil to massage skin on your face but avoid touching your eyes.
  • Repeat this when necessary

Other oils for the similar purpose include eucalyptus and oregano essential oils.

4. Turmeric

If your kitchen store runs out of peppermint oil, use turmeric powder as a substitute. In this home procedure, you need additional tealeaves (of your flavor), coconut milk and at least some boiled water.

  • Add a teaspoonful turmeric powder to glass full of hot water
  • Leave it for 5 minutes or wait for it to become warm and take it
  • Drink at least five times a day while replacing your initial tea with coconut milk.


Use ginger if your sinuses are blocked. Slice up a fresh and clean ginger root into thin chips. Add 1 or 2 of the prepared ginger to your tea or boiled water. Do it in the morning and evening to ease swollen inside-nose.

Alternatively, chew small size of ginger and swallow its juice.

6. Cayenne

This pepper is used as a natural treatment of sinus infections. These infections can potentially produce chronic symptoms including congestion.

Cayenne is quite effective in relieving these symptoms of infections of the sinuses.

PRECAUTION: Due to hereditary diversification, not all individuals would benefit from some of these remedies. These include:

  • Garlic for congested sinuses
  • Astragalus roots
  • Cayenne

More tips

These tips may offer help if your nose becomes swollen from the inside.

  • Avoid squeezing or touching it
  • Avoid antihistamines. These drugs potentially cause thickening of mucosal lining
  • Do not use nasal decongestants for more than three days. This can actually increase the swelling in nostrils
  • If you have a condition such as allergic rhinitis avoid all these

If symptoms often become severe or chronic, kindly see your doctor.


  1. Allergy Treatment - Immunotherapy: http://www.aafa.org/page/allergy-treatments.aspx
  2. Sinusitis: http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatment/allergies/sinusitis
  3. Nasal polyps: http://www.healthline.com/health/nasal-polyps

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