Treating catarrh 

Treatment for catarrh may not be necessary because it often disappears within a few days, after your body has fought off the infection.

If treatment is required, the type of treatment recommended will depend on the underlying cause. For example:

Chronic catarrh

If no cause can be found, you may be able to reduce the amount of catarrh you produce with the following self-help techniques:

  • avoid atmospheres which may dry out your airways – for example, air conditioning and car heating systems
  • plants or bowls of water in a room may help to moisten the atmosphere
  • ensure you are not dehydrated
  • try to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth
  • use a saline nasal rinse several times a day – these can be bought from a chemist or made at home with half a teaspoon of salt in a pint of boiled (then cooled) water
  • decongestants (see below)

Decongestant medication

Decongestants help relieve a blocked nose by reducing swelling of blood vessels in your nose.

Decongestants are available in tablet form or as a nasal spray and can be bought from pharmacies without a prescription. Oral decongestants (those taken by mouth) may take a little longer to work, but their effect can last longer than nasal sprays.

You should not use decongestants for more than five to seven days at a time. This is because they only provide short-term relief and using them for longer than seven days may make your symptoms worse.

Decongestants do not usually cause side effects and, if they do, they are likely to be mild. Possible side effects of decongestant nasal sprays may include:

  • irritation to the lining of your nose
  • headaches 
  • nausea (feeling sick)

Read more about decongestant medicines.


Page last reviewed: 16/05/2014

Next review due: 16/05/2016