Ask Dr. Park: How to Unstuff Your Stuffy Nose

In this Ask Dr. Park teleseminar, I answer one of the most common questions I get in general, which is, "How can I breathe better through my nose?" 

In this 60 minute live teleseminar, I'll reveal:

– The one thing that most doctors miss

– Why not breathing through your nose can drop your oxygen intake by 20%

– Myths and truths about septoplasty

– How nasal saline can be helpful AND harmful

– How your nose affects snoring and obstructive sleep apnea

– And much more.

Click here to purchase the 65 minute mp3 download.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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16 thoughts on “Ask Dr. Park: How to Unstuff Your Stuffy Nose

  1. I am a cpap user first of all. I have been having congestion problems since 6 months before my first cpap use in 2005. I use simply saline at times, mostly at night to clear me up. I usually don't produce any mucus except when i have a cold. So I sleep about1.5 to 2 hours and wake up with a stuffy nose. i go down stairs for 1 to 2 hours sitting and lying on my right side. Eventually I clear up and go back to bed. I may sleep another 1.5 to 3 hours before getting up again. I don't like the idea of surgery, but would consider TURBINATE COBLATION if it is safe, long lasting and free of dangers like ENS. I have a mildly deviated septum, no allergies that I know of and no polyps. ANY THOUGHTS OF SUGGESTIONS?

  2. Anything to help you breathe better is a good thing. Unfortunately, without personally examining you, I can’t say what the right option is for you. Assuming that your turbinates are the only cause of your obstruction, the The Coblation technique is one of the least invasive procedures with good initial results. However, turbinate enlargement is usually not the only reason for a stuffy nose. Even a slightly deviated septum and more commonly flimsy nostrils can aggravate nasal congestion. There’s no concern with the ENS since you’re not removing anything or damaging the mucous membranes. With any of these procedures, the more minimal it is, the more likely it may begin to swell again years later, especially if you have persistent sleep apnea. Good luck.

  3. Dr told me that I has polyps in my nose that get inflamed. She gave prednisone to take which worked great for a temporary time then they became inflammed again. She is now suggesting surgery. Anything else I can use over the counter to help. Cant afford the health benefits anymore. Thanks for your help.

  4. Michael,

    You can try using a Neti-pot nasal saline irrigation every night before you go to sleep. You can even try it in the morning as well. If Breathe Right strips help, then keep using them.

    Are you using one of the topical nasal steroid sprays on a regular basis?

  5. Dr. Park,
    I appreciate your responding to my previous question. I know that you do not know my nose and mouth anatomy, so you can only answer my questions in general terms. I use a CPAP every night and I am very comfortable with it. It helps me a great deal. However, I am getting more and more congested at night and I am sleeping less. I feel that since I have tried everything from saline, to nasal strips, to steroid sprays, etc. that surgery may be my only option for my nasal congestion.  But here is my problem:
    1.       I am terrified of surgery
    2.       I cannot breathe through my mouth especially with a CPAP mouth piece. My tissues seem to collapse or close.
    3.       I use a nasal mask successfully when I am not congested.
    4.       So if I have surgery, how will I ever sleep while I am recovering, e.g. packing, post surgery congestion?
    5.       If there is packing, how will my nasal mask fit on my face?
    6.       COULD I HAVE SURGERY ON ONE SIDE OF MY NOSE AND BREATHE THRU THE OTHER WHILE RECOVERING? Then do the other side later? That is the only solution that I could come up with.
    7.       I am thinking of the coblation surgery done in a doctor’s office as maybe I would be congested afterward or I can use afrin til the better breathing takes effect?
    Any advice you have will be appreciated. I am really freaked out about now as I feel that my situation is so different than most and I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t have surgery.


  6. Gary, 

    Since a septoplasty is a midline operation, you can't do one side at a time. You could in theory do the turbinates one side at a time, but again, without looking at your nose, I can't say exactly what's needed. In my experience, you'll be breathing right away after your surgery since I don't use any packing. You will get stuffed up a few days later, but that get's addressed a few days after surgery. Talk to your ENT surgeon about your concerns and I'm sure that he or she can offer something that you may be comfortable with.

  7. Hi Dr. Park —

    Ent/surgeons and i have tried everything on earth to unclogged my stuffy nose.

    Only my left side of my nose get clogged up at night and few hours before it rains outside.

    I’ve tried :
    -All kinds of steroids spray

    -Had my turbinates reduction(septoplasty performed by ent doctor

    -Had rhinoplasty surgery done to correct my deviated septum & wider my nasal -passages

    -After a year ,i went to another ent,he performed another sinus surgery ..this time he went deeper to my sinus passages to wider it.

    There is no polyps found ,mucus if any is cleared , no infection that can be found in my sinus .

    The right side of my nose is always clogged at night, it is unbearable –no headaches except my head is dying for oxygen .Breathing thru my right side of nose and mouth wont help
    The only way i can unclogged my left side of nose is if i use afrin (decongest spray) which i only use it no more than 2 /3days especially when i had a cold/flu.

    Saline wont help at all. All the good habits have been tried that includes stop smoking,stop drinking alcohol ,..etc etc

    Any thoughts of my chronic sinus congested ??

    Please advise

  8. It’s weird I have had sleeping problems my entire life and only recently did I realize it; one of them sleeping with my mouth open and having my nostril clogged at night, so as I result I wake up every few hours extremely thirsty and drink liquids.

  9. Dr. Park,

    I am a 20 year old college student. I have had a breathing problem my entire life where I feel I can not receive enough air when I breathe. I recently broke my nose and deviated my septum last April playing basketball. When getting looked at by my first doctor, he told me (just by looking up into my nose) that I had allergies, sprayed flonase into my nose, and as a result, I could breathe MUCH better. He prescriped me flonase, however, it did not help me like it did in his office. Afterwards, I traveled to the family plastic surgeon and took his advice: I received both a rhinoplasty and septoplasty. A few days after the surgery, the doctor “vacuumed” or suctioned my nose, and immediately afterwards, I felt like I was in heaven because I could breathe so much air! Now, it has been almost a year after surgery, and I am not able to breathe as well – about the same as it was pre-surgery. Is it because of allergies? Is it because my nasal passages have closed up with mucous? Please let me know! I appreciate it greatly!

  10. Nick,

    I can’t say without examining you, but there are two possibilities. You could have persistent inflammation inside your nose causing swelling which blocks your nose. Afrin would help significantly in this case, but you can’t use it for more than 2-3 days. Another possibility is that your nostrils are caving in. In this case, Breathe Rite strips can help. You can have both conditions. In general, with a bit of detective work, there is a way to help you breathe much better again.

  11. Hi!

    Is there anything I can do to help my son’s stuffy nose at night? He only has the stuffy nose when he goes to sleep. What can be the problem? Please help.


  12. Lisa, there are a number of common reasons for a stuffy nose at night. I’ve discussed many of them in this website. However, without examining your son, I can’t say exactly what the cause may be. I recommend you take your son to see a local ENT doctor. Good luck.

  13. i’ve beed suffering from not being to breathe at night thru both nostrils at the same time for about 7 months. If i sleep on my right side my right nostil plugs
    up and if i sleep on my left hand side my left nostril gets plugged. ive pretty much
    have tried almost everything from using saline sprays,prescribed steroid spray,humidifier,nose strips and afrin which at first worked like a charm but
    months later made things worst.. i’ve also noticed that my nostrils are becoming more dryer, especially at night. during most of the day i’m usually able to breath
    ok but not perfect. if you have any answers or suggestion please let me know.


  14. Hello I’ve Have This Problems For A Couple Months, One Side Of My Nose Is Always Cogged & I Always Seem To Find Myself Needing To Take Really Big Breaths Especially At Night, It’s Very Frustrating Because It Is Very Windy Where I Live & Am Always Coughing Like Crazy !

  15. Dr. Park, thank you so much for being here. I don’t like to admit it, but I was one of those people that overly abused the use of over the counter Afrin type Nasal Sprays. I was on this rollercoaster for about 4 years. I finally stopped 5 weeks ago. I haven’t touched it. My nasal passages are more clear and less swollen than they were, but they just can’t seem to stop swelling up and closing on me, especially at night when I need sleep. I’ve been taking a low 30 Milligram Pseudoephedrine until my nasal passages/sinuses finally come back to normal. I’m wondering how long this is actually going to take. Also, what can I take at night to help me sleep with clear nasal passages? Thank you

  16. Mr. Lawson,

    Sorry to hear about your stuffy nose issues. My usual recommendation is to see an ENT physician if over the counter meds don’t help. Some people will need nasal surgery if prescription meds don’t help.

    Good luck,

    Steven Park