Choose your most prominent symptom

Sinus pain

Congestion

Airway obstrucion

Headache

Drainage



If you get sudden onset of congestion and it is infrequent, the most likely cause would be a viral infection. Viral infections, such as the common cold, are highly contagious and can occur at any time of the year, though they are more common in the wintertime. Not all colds "act" the same. They can be of more or less severity. They can start in the nose or the throat or the chest and they usually spread to involve other regions.

Clues that you have a viral infection are:
  • Sudden onset and usually feel slightly tired
  • Large amounts of nasal drainage, frequent blowing
  • Usually no pain
  • Prominent congestion and airway obstruction
  • Usually both sides of your nose are involved
  • Often people you have been in contact are sick with "the crud"
  • Symptoms usually are improving by day 5 or 6 and generally are fully cleared before 2 weeks
  • Minimal relief from antihistamines
Other causes of sudden onset of congestion include acute allergic attacks, and acute bacterial sinus infections.

Acute allergies
are usually seasonal and are related to specific pollen blooms or related to exposure, such as disturbing garden material with the release of mole spore. Rummaging through mold-infested material or being around pets that you are allergic to or other situations that can instigate an acute allergic reaction. Acute allergic reactions are characterized by sneezing, itchy eyes, and copious clear drainage, they usually resolve in a couple of days after the exposure has ceased.

If the congestion is infrequent, but comes at the same time every year, consider seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergy flare-ups occur when people have an allergy to a specific pollen and when that pollen blooms, suddenly. Ragweed is one of the most common blooms, but other pollens can also be responsible. Sudden allergy flare-ups from pollen are called "hay fever." Hay fever is not usually caused from hay, and there is usually no fever associated with it. The term hay fever refers to a sudden onset of nasal congestion, itchy eyes, sometimes cough and throat symptoms and is associated with a specific sudden pollen bloom.

Clues that your problem is allergic:
  • Onset takes several days unless you have some prominent exposure to allergens, like cleaning some musty garage or doing garden work
  • Sneezing itching and congestion usually affect your nose first and foremost
  • Usually no pain
  • Eye itch is common with acute allergies
  • Usually both sides of your nose are involved
  • No obvious exposure to people who are sick
  • Symptoms may come and go depending on if you are inside or outside
  • Significant relief from antihistamines

Acute bacterial
infections often follow the common cold or an allergy flare up. They are frequently just on one side and they frequently cause facial pain or sinus headaches. Cloudy or colored drainage is common and in children cough is the most common symptom.

Clues that you have a bacterial infection:
  • A cold or allergy seems to be improving, but then gets worse again
  • One side more involved than the other
  • Sinus or facial pain, or pain in upper teeth
  • Thin yellow or green drainage
  • Not improving after a week
  • An odor is sometimes noticed
  • Headaches in people not prone to headaches
  • Sometimes a cough from post nasal drainage

What to do ?

If this sounds like your situation. First, consider the possibility of that you have a viral infection, see treating colds with OTC medicines. For some reason, people underestimate the number of colds that they suffer each year and prefer to believe that the problems are allergic or of other origin.

If you are pretty sure that it's not a cold, try OTC allergy medicines, use them consistently for a week or so, if they work, some are indicated for long term use if needed. If that doesn't help, a visit to the doctor may be in order. If your problem is frequent and hasn't responded well to OTC medicines, it is time to find out what is going on.

Bacterial infections and difficult to treat allergies can benefit from prescription medicines.






Your Congestion...

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Viruses are very common.
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