Stuffy nose

I am suffering from a cold and cough problem since childhood. This becomes worse during winters and I am sometimes unable to breathe or sleep properly due to a stuffy nose. I reside in a coastal area, but even then I cannot sleep out of doors. How can I get rid of this problem permanently?


A persistent "cold" and cough could be caused by local, general or coincidental diseases affecting the nose or sinuses and the lungs. Nasal or sinus disorders can themselves cause cough, and both may improve with therapy directed at the sinuses. The simplest treatment is steam inhalation or the drinking of hot soups such as chicken soup containing garlic and pepper. Decongestants can produce relief, but they eventually lose their effects and may cause worse "rebound" congestion in the nose; this problem may require a major effort to break the habit of relying on regular use of these medications. If allergy is a factor, inhaled nasal steroids can help, but severe cases may require a course of an oral corticosteroid, perhaps accompanied by an antihistamine if there is sneezing and itching. When there is evidence of sinus infection, one or more courses of antibiotics are required, and the treatment will offer added value if there is any accompanying bronchitis or lung infection.

Chronic sinusitis may be difficult to evaluate, and a CAT scan may be justified. This will also help by demonstrating abnormal nasal or sinus anatomy, or the presence of a serious complication such as tumour, a fungus infection or an unusual pathologic condition. A surgical specialist would need to decide if endoscopic management would be advisable or if more extensive operative intervention was required.

Treatment of cough can be difficult, unless a primary cause can be detected and eliminated. Causes to consider besides sinusitis include gastro-esophageal reflux or swallowing disorders that encourage aspiration. Asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough (which can occur in adults), tuberculosis, HIV (AIDS) and other infections are possible causes of chronic cough. Cancer is another concern that justifies a chest x-ray, particularly in smokers. General therapy for a cough involves avoiding irritation such as smoking, and the use of expectorants and cough medicines. Traditional agents, including vasaka (which is the source of the modern drug, bromhexine) and Tylophora, can be beneficial, although codeine or dextromethorphan may be more effective. Another cough suppressant, benzonatate, may help relieve stubborn non-productive coughing. If there is an infection in the lungs, antibiotics will be needed.

Overall, there is a concern that persistent or frequent coughs and colds are a result of impaired immunity. Many immuno-stimulating herbs are thought to be useful; echinacea, astragalus, ashwagandha and elderberry are often used for sinusitis and colds. Zinc salts are used for acute colds, but recurrent colds are less likely to respond. Sometimes, the best medicine is a short vacation and a change in environment, particularly if rest and a reduction in stress can be part of the prescription.