The Connection Between Asthma and Nasal Congestion

A young woman with asthma using an inhaler.

Struggling to catch your breath during an asthma attack is bad enough, but when nasal congestion comes into the picture, it can feel like a double whammy. Asthma and nasal congestion are often intertwined, making each other's effects more severe and harder to manage. 

If you’ve ever had an asthma attack, then you know the desperate feeling of gulping for air to no avail, as if an elephant is sitting on your chest. You’ll also be familiar with the compounding feeling of nasal congestion that feels like you’re trying to breathe through a straw!

Having asthma is difficult enough on its own, but it can be even worse if you experience nasal conditions like allergies or sinus infections that can make it harder to breathe well. 

Before we dive into the connection between asthma and nasal congestion, let's start by reviewing some fundamental information about asthma. After that, we can explore the link between these two conditions and how they can exacerbate each other's effects.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a condition where the narrowing of your airways makes breathing difficult. If you have asthma, your body may produce extra mucus, which can worsen your breathing by obstructing your airways. It’s not uncommon for those with asthma to have nasal polyps as well, potentially making it even harder to breathe.

Types of Asthma

For some people, their asthma symptoms may only flare up at certain times, such as:

  • During exercise. This is called exercise-induced asthma, and it can be worsened by cold or dry air.
  • At work, if you work around irritants like chemical fumes, dust, or gases. This is called occupational asthma.
  • During allergy season. Asthma symptoms caused by common allergens like pollen, dust, or pet dander are also known as allergy-induced asthma or allergic asthma.

For many people with asthma, however, their symptoms are severe enough to interfere with their day-to-day life and put them at risk of an asthma attack.

Common signs and symptoms of asthma can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing while exhaling
  • Coughing
  • Interrupted sleep caused by the above symptoms
  • Worsened symptoms if you are sick with a cold or the flu
  • Tightness or pain in your chest

When these symptoms suddenly become more severe, you may suffer an asthma attack. 

What is an Asthma Attack?

An asthma attack— also known as asthma exacerbation— occurs when your airways become inflamed and swollen. The muscles in your airways produce more mucus, which causes your airways to narrow. This can cause coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. [1]

These attacks have been described as feeling like a fish out of the water.

Even for minor asthma attacks, prompt treatment is key. Minor attacks can often be treated easily with a rescue inhaler, but severe asthma attacks can become life-threatening if not treated quickly.

Signs of an asthma attack include:

  • Severe shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing
  • Severe tightness or pain in the chest
  • Symptoms that don't improve, even after using an inhaler

With all this in mind, you may be wondering— what does all this have to do with nasal congestion? Let's take a look at that now.

The Connection Between Asthma and Nasal Congestion

Everyone experiences nasal congestion every now and again. And while it's simply a nuisance at the best of times, nasal congestion can be especially stressful if you have asthma.

Many people with asthma also suffer from chronic sinus problems, such as:

  • Chronic rhinitis. Rhinitis is inflammation or swelling in your nose. It can be caused by allergens— allergic rhinitis or hay fever— or nonallergic triggers like smoke, chemical fumes, or fragrances. This is called nonallergic rhinitis. These symptoms are a result of your body overreacting to the offending irritant or allergen and creating an allergic reaction. Chronic rhinitis, also known as perennial rhinitis, occurs when these symptoms last for more than an hour on most days.
  • Chronic sinusitis. Also known as a sinus infection, sinusitis occurs when your sinuses become swollen or inflamed following allergic rhinitis or the common cold.
  • Chronic rhinosinusitis. This occurs when you have both rhinitis and sinusitis at the same time. While you can have rhinitis without sinusitis, sinusitis cannot occur without rhinitis or a virus preceding it.

These issues can be caused by viruses or bacteria, allergens like dust mites or pollen, or even fungi. They also share many of the same nasal symptoms, including:

  • Stuffy nose (nasal congestion)
  • Runny nose
  • Postnasal drip
  • Facial pressure, pain, or soreness
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat

As well as being annoying, these symptoms can actually make your asthma worse. Of these three conditions, sinusitis can be especially problematic if you have asthma.

Asthma and Chronic Sinusitis

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, as many as half of all people with moderate to severe asthma also have chronic sinusitis. [2]

This is because having asthma increases your risk of getting sinusitis. Having sinusitis also makes it harder to control your asthma symptoms. In fact, both conditions can worsen the other if you have both at the same time. This can get even more stressful if you add seasonal allergic rhinitis to the mix. And the more severe your asthma is, the worse sinusitis tends to be.

When compared to people who only have asthma, those who have both asthma and sinusitis:

  • Tend to have more severe asthma symptoms
  • May be more likely to have more severe asthma flares
  • Are more likely to experience disturbed sleep because of these symptoms

Other health conditions— including acid reflux or GERD or tobacco use— can also increase your risk of sinusitis if you have asthma also. [3]

Allergies and Asthma

Allergies and asthma often go hand-in-hand. In fact, approximately 80 percent of people with asthma have allergies. This is called allergic asthma, or atopic asthma. Sometimes, asthma symptoms flare up only at certain times of the year, like allergy season or during cold weather. This can be known as “seasonal” asthma.

The same irritants that trigger your allergies can also trigger your asthma. Sometimes food allergies or skin allergies can even trigger asthma symptoms.

This occurs when your body overreacts to the allergen, causing an allergic reaction. Allergies can trigger asthma symptoms when these allergic reactions affect your airways and your lungs. High amounts of a compound called immunoglobulin (IgE), released during an allergic reaction to protect your body, can actually cause your airways to narrow instead. 

Of course, allergy symptoms like nasal congestion can trigger your asthma also.

So what can be done to prevent nasal congestion from potentially worsening your asthma symptoms? It's actually easier than you may think.

How to Treat Nasal Congestion (And Improve Your Asthma Symptoms)

Whether you experience occasional or chronic nasal congestion, treating it goes a long way in improving your asthma symptoms. Here are 5 easy ways to address nasal congestion and prevent your asthma symptoms from getting out of control.

1. Stay on Any Prescribed Medications

If you are currently on any medications for your allergies or asthma, or if you use an inhaler, stay on them. However, if you don't feel like they're working as well as they should be, talk to your doctor. They can help you identify alternatives to your current prescription and update your treatment.

Never stop following your current prescription or alter your dosage schedule without talking to your doctor first.

2. Allergy-Proof Your Home

Whether you experience seasonal allergies or experience indoor allergy symptoms year-round, allergy-proofing your home is one of the best ways to keep that discomfort to a minimum.

Reducing the number of allergens in your home not only improves the air quality in your home, but it also improves your quality of life if you experience allergies or asthma.

3. Avoid Your Triggers

    Knowing what triggers your nasal symptoms makes it much easier to avoid them. For example, if you have a pollen allergy, avoiding the outdoors on high pollen days can be the difference between breathing easily, or being in misery.

    However, if you're not sure what may be triggering your nasal symptoms, talk to a doctor or an allergist. They can conduct an allergy test to see which allergens may be causing your symptoms.

    These tests can also determine if your triggers are nonallergic. If you don't experience a reaction to any of the allergens administered during the test, that's a sign that nonallergic irritants like chemical fumes or smoke cause your symptoms.

    4. Use SinuSonic to Relieve Nasal Congestion

    SinuSonic's unique device helps relieve nasal congestion naturally and opens your nasal passages, making it easier to breathe. Through gentle acoustic vibration and positive expiratory pressure (PEP), SinuSonic delivers gentle relief from nasal congestion while also helping you breathe more efficiently. When you breathe into the device's flutter valve, it provides gentle resistance that helps strengthen your upper airway and increases your mucus movement.

    These vibrations, which have a similar effect to humming, also increase your nitric oxide intake, which has anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties, which can help protect you against bad bugs that can make you sick.

    5. Keep Your Nasal Passages Moisturized

    Dry nasal passages can make you more vulnerable to airborne irritants and allergens. It can also aggravate your airways and cause your asthma symptoms to flare up. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent this.

    • Use a humidifier in your home to add moisture to the air. This will also help prevent your nasal passages from drying out.
    • Use a saline solution or a neti pot to rinse your sinuses. This not only moisturizes your nasal passages but it rinses irritants and allergens from your sinuses. It also thins down thick mucus that could make it harder to breathe well.

    Every Breath You Take and Every Move You Make— SinuSonic Can Help You Breathe Better

    If you’re one of the millions of Americans with asthma, it can be stressful to keep your symptoms under control— especially with the added stress of nasal congestion. It can be a lot to handle, especially during allergy season or cold and flu season.

    But the prospect of a stuffy nose shouldn't fill you with dread. Even if you deal with asthma, there are steps you can take to breathe more freely, naturally. 

    Want to relieve nasal congestion and breathe more efficiently? Try SinuSonic!

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    1. "Asthma Attack." Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 Oct. 2021,
    2. "Sinusitis (Sinus Infection or Sinus Inflammation)." Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America,
    3. Dixon, Anne E, et al. "Allergic Rhinitis and Sinusitis in Asthma: Differential Effects on Symptoms and Pulmonary Function." U.S. National Library of Medicine, Chest,