Why Can’t I Breathe Through My Nose? Exploring the Causes And Remedies!

By Kendra Reed

Updated On

“It is as easy as breathing,” we say, referring to something very easy to do. But breathing is not always ‘easy peasy lemon squeezy’. It is an involuntary act and normally we are not aware of it. We get conscious of it only the moment we find it difficult to breathe. No one needs to be told how vital breathing is for human existence and how something so easy is literally a bridge between life and death. However, sometimes this easiest thing for us to do can also become a big challenge. Do you also find it difficult at times to breathe through your nose? Worry no more, we got you! In this article, we delve deep into the causes that make breathing through the nose difficult, the remedies, and everything you need to know about it.

Causes of breathing problems

If you are struggling with breathing problems, the first step is to identify the underlying cause for the same. It can range from a simple nasal obstruction to chronic sinusitis or a deviated septum. Depending on the intensity of the problem the medical intervention can be somewhere in between a nasal spray to even a surgery.

Nasal Obstruction

Nasal obstruction is a blockage in the nasal passage and can be due to various reasons. It is temporary in most cases and is caused by allergies, colds, medications, etc.

Causes for nasal obstruction

  • Swelling – swelling in your nasal cavity due to allergies.
  • Choanal atresia – it is a congenital condition wherein you have extra tissues in the nasal passage causing full or partial blockage to air passage.
  • Inferior turbinate hypertrophy – swelling of the turbinates (bony structure in your nasal cavity) due to allergies making it difficult to breathe.
  • Oversized adenoids – adenoids are glands located above the roof of your nose and behind your nose. They can cause breathing difficulties and snoring when they become oversized.

Treatment Options – medications, nasal steroid spray to reduce inflammation, adenoidectomy, balloon sinuplasty, etc.

Chronic Sinusitis

It is the inflammation of the sinuses causing swelling, pain, and discomfort. Chronic sinusitis lasts longer than twelve weeks. Unlike acute sinusitis, it is not caused by bacteria and cannot be cured with antibiotics.

Causes for chronic sinusitis

  • Biofilms – biofilms are a colony of bacteria that forms a thick film, like teeth plaque.
  • Blockage in the nose – it prevents sinus drainage
  • Unusual infections – antibiotic-resistant infections and fungal infections
  • Allergies – people with allergies and asthma are easily susceptible to chronic sinusitis because these problems can exert pressure on the sinuses and nasal passage.
  • Immune system disorders – individuals with immune system issues will have more difficulty in fighting inflammations and infections. People suffering from cystic fibrosis, HIV, etc might be susceptible to chronic sinusitis.

Treatment options – intranasal corticosteroid sprays, antihistamine pills or sprays, antifungal medicine, pain relievers, treating underlying conditions like asthma or allergies, and surgery.

Nasal valve rupture

The nasal valve is the narrowest part of your nose and its collapse can make you feel a blockage in the nasal passage when you are trying to take a breath. The nasal valve can collapse either by an injury or weakness of the nose.

Treatment options – after finding out the reason for the rupture, a suitable course of action can be taken. Surgery and LATERA implants are two viable treatment options.

Deviated Septum

The nasal septum is a thin wall separating the right and left nasal passages of your nose. Usually, both nostrils are of the same size which makes it easy for us to inhale and exhale. When your nose is crunched, your septum is deviated to one side, making one side smaller than the other which makes breathing difficult. Snoring, nose bleeds, and facial pain are some of the common symptoms. Some people are born with deviated septum. Though medications can help reduce swelling, surgical intervention is required in most cases.

Treatment options – medicines to reduce inflammation, septoplasty surgery.

Nasal Polyps

Nasal polyps are soft, painless, non-cancerous growths inside the nose. It can be unnoticeably small which is why you might not find them most often. But the larger ones restrict the air passage and make breathing difficult.

Treatment options – corticosteroids, surgery, balloon sinuplasty.

Common Cold

It is the most common reason for a stuffy nose. Swelling in the nasal passages is the body’s immune response to viruses and bacteria entering the nasal passage. The mucus trapped in the nose makes it difficult to breathe properly.

Treatment options – nasal sprays, and antibiotics.


Seasonal allergies are caused by pollens, spores, etc released from plants. You could be allergic to any of these bodies, and when the wind carries them to your nostrils, it induces an immune response towards the same. It can make breathing through your nose a tough feat. Besides, animal allergy, i.e., allergy to pet dander (dead animal skin flakes), or protein in animal saliva can also give you a hard time if you get too close with your pets. Food allergy is yet another common allergy type that can produce an immune response in your body. Common allergens include shellfish, soy, peanuts, dairy, wheat, etc.

Treatment options – antihistamines, decongestants, allergy shots.


Being able to breathe easily is a blessing. We take breathing for granted so much so that we realize it only after it becomes difficult to do it. Breathing difficulty is a common issue millions of people face across the globe. Breathing through the nose can be made difficult by a lot of causes including sinusitis, cold, nasal polyps, allergies, nasal valve rupture, deviated septum, or an oversized adenoid. Depending on the extent and intensity of the problem, solutions can range from over-the-counter drugs to even surgeries. Therefore, understanding the root cause of the problem at the earliest is critical for proper treatment and recovery.

Also Read: Why Does The Bridge Of My Nose Hurt? Understand The Root Causes


Q: How can I unblock my nose?

A: Steam inhalation, decongestant tablets, nasal sprays, warm compresses, etc are some of the most effective methods for unblocking nasal passage. Staying hydrated and taking hot showers also help.

Q: Why is my one nostril always closed?

A: It could be due to a deviated septum. It closes one nostril and reduces airflow, making it difficult to breathe.

Q: What foods are best to clear sinuses?

A: Pineapple, onions, pumpkin, ginger, etc are considered best for relieving sinus problems.

Q: What is the best position to sleep with a stuffy nose?

A: The best position to sleep when you have a stuffy nose is to lay flat on your back with your head slightly elevated. A blocked nose can feel particularly uncomfortable at night as your body position can cause the blood draining to your nose increasing the swelling.

Kendra Reed

Dr. Kendra Reed is a dedicated general medicine physician with 7 years of clinical experience. After graduating from medical school, she completed her residency in internal medicine, developing a well-rounded skillset in diagnosing and treating a diverse range of conditions. Patients appreciate Dr. Reed's warm bedside manner and commitment to providing comprehensive, personalized care. In addition to her clinical work, she is actively involved in community outreach programs, educating the public on important health topics. Dr. Reed is known for her ability to establish trusting relationships with her patients and help them achieve their wellness goals.

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