when you have a cold, and your nose gets stuffy, what is the physical mechanism causing his blockage and why does blowing your nose not help at all?
This happens to me 3-4 times a year.
Your nose is more than just the bit sticking out of your face. Youve also got lots of pockets of air in your face – behind your eyes, just behind your forehead, and just behind where your nose meets your cheek.
These pockets are called sinuses, and during normal operation, they warm and moisten air you breath in so it doesn’t shock or dry your lungs. They also have mucus in them to catch particles so they don’t irritate your lungs.
But when you get sick, the sinuses can get irritated themselves. Sometimes it because the infection irritates them, and sometimes it’s just because you blew your nose too hard. It could also just be an allergen, like pollen.
Whatever the case the tissue in your sinuses swells up, sometimes so much that the passage resembles the space between your fingers when you make a fist – nothing is getting through.
So when you blow your nose, you force air through there, and because nothing’s *actually* blocking, nothing comes out.
The fun part comes that if they stayed blocked for too long, the warm, moist environment behind the swelling is a great place for bacteria to grow, and you get a sinus infection. All the same problems, now with an external cause.
The solution is anithistamines like Claritin and/or ibuprofen for swelling reduction.
If you think it’s *going* to happen that your sinuses will swell, you should consider preemptively using something like Flonase. It’s a low-grade steroid that will a) dry out your sinuses, reducing the chance something will get stuck and remain to irritate; and b) encourage your sinuses to tighten up and reduce future swelling. It takes a few days to really kick in though, so once they’re swollen, your just along for the ride.
And if they’re swollen for more than a week, or what mucus you *do* blow out becomes dark and opaque, see a doctor about a potential sinus infection (aka, acute sinusitis)
When you’re sick with a stuffy nose it’s not because it’s full of mucous. It’s because the mucous membranes are irritated and swollen. The swelling causes the blockage so blowing your nose won’t clear it.
This is why antihistamine medication clears your nose in these cases histamines cause swelling and so an antihistamine will clear the nose.