Stuffy nose

Nasal stuffiness is a common problem in pregnancy, even if you don't have a cold or allergies. Nasal congestion and nosebleeds are more frequent because of the increased blood flow to the mucous membranes in your body. As the lining of your nose and airway swells, your airway shrinks. Your nasal tissue also becomes softer and more prone to bleeding. This nasal stuffiness is common in pregnancy and isn't inflammation of the mucous membranes of the nose (rhinitis). It can be annoying, however.

Rhinitis — in other words, a runny or stuffy nose caused by inflammation — is the body's strategy for getting rid of foreign invaders. Allergic rhinitis is caused by seasonal or perennial allergies. Nonallergic rhinitis is triggered by factors such as air pollution, smoke and infections.

When blood vessel changes are the cause of nasal congestion or stuffiness along with a very runny nose, the condition is called vasomotor rhinitis. It's often associated with overuse of nasal spray decongestants.

■ Prevention and self-care for a stuffy nose

Most pregnant women can tolerate a stuffy nose and other nasal symptoms without taking medications. If there's no accompanying problem such as a cold or allergies, no treatment is generally required. These tips may help keep your stuffy nose clearer:

• Use a humidifier in your home to loosen nasal secretions.

• Place a towel over your head and breathe the steam from a pan of water.

• Sleep propped up with your head elevated.

■ Medical care for a stuffy nose

Avoid over-the-counter remedies for your stuffed-up nose. Prolonged use of these medications can cause problems, and your nasal stuffiness may last for nine months. Try to deal with it using conservative means.

For other tips on dealing with nasal congestion related to inflammation, see Allergies; Colds.

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