Catarrh - Treatment 

Treating catarrh 

Treatment for catarrh is not often necessary because it will disappear 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.

To help relieve a blocked nose you can use decongestant medication and steam inhalation.

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.

Steam inhalation

Inhaling steam from a bowl of hot (but not boiling) water may help soften and loosen up the mucus in your nasal cavities.

Adding menthol crystals or eucalyptus oil to the water may also help to ease your blocked nose.

Steam inhalation is not recommended as a suitable treatment for children due to the risk of scalding.

Persistent catarrh

The recommended treatment for persistent catarrh will depend on the underlying cause.

For example, rhinitis can usually be managed by avoiding the allergens (substances responsible for causing allergic reactions) or environmental triggers that cause catarrh.

It may be possible to relieve persistent catarrh by using a nasal spray that contains corticosteroids (medication that helps reduce inflammation).

Read more about treating allergic rhinitis and treating non-allergic rhinitis.

If you have small nasal polyps (fleshy growths in your nose) it may be possible to shrink them using a nasal spray containing steroids. Surgery may be needed to remove larger nasal polyps.

Read more about treating nasal polyps.

Page last reviewed: 29/05/2012

Next review due: 29/05/2014


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The 6 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

JD4 said on 04 February 2013

Im going to try the neti solution that Graystone mentioned. Ive had the operation, the sprays & just about everything else & none of its any good!

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maddylou said on 04 June 2012

I have had chronic catarrh for about 17 years and recently laryngitis which lasted for about five weeks following a bad cold. Went to the GP & put on antibiotics. Laryngitis is better, but voice still affected by this catarrh, which also causes an irritating, reactive cough. Had tests 17 years ago, but consultant mystified. Inhalers don't work. Any ideas? Fear that voice might be affected permanently and I love to sing, so quite disastrous really.

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graystone said on 02 March 2012

Long term occasional sufferer. Doctor gave me Salamol inhaler to make breathing easier.
I have tea with lemon, honey and glycerine to taste. you can buy this over the counter as a gl, ho, and lemon linctus.
I find the neti wash clears my sinus, the steamer loosens the flem and the tea etc loosens the catarrh. The above really loosens what it should loosen and my Doc has agreed with me

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JD4 said on 12 January 2012

I could`nt agree more matelot!

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Matelot said on 23 November 2011

I`ve had catarrh for a very long time and my Dr. first tried the nasal spray which was no good at all. Then he tried me on droplets again no good whatsoever. After further checks with the Dr. he has simply put me back onto the nasal spray - even though it does not work. I informed him of this but I may as well spoke to the door. I left the prescription for the nasal spray on his desk as I walked out in disgust and in a bad temper..
No wonder people who can, are going private, the NHS is dying on its feet.

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beemer1 said on 14 January 2011

I used nasal decongestants for three days,three times a day,side effects being a slight headache and sore nostrils using Vick Sinex,this was after a very nasty bout of the flu,keep below the recommended dose,it worked for me,also turn down the central heating that helped at night!!

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