Skip to main content

Nasal polyps

Nasal polyps are painless soft growths inside your nose. They're not usually serious, but they can keep growing and block your nose if not treated.

Check if you have nasal polyps

Symptoms of nasal polyps include:

  • blocked nose
  • runny nose
  • constant need to swallow (post-nasal drip)
  • reduced sense of smell or taste
  • nosebleeds
  • snoring

Nasal polyps can sometimes feel like a cold. But colds tend to clear up within a few days, whereas nasal polyps will not get better unless they're treated.

If your polyps block your sinuses (the air pockets around your nose) you may also have symptoms of sinusitis.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • you're worried you may have nasal polyps
  • you have difficulty breathing
  • your symptoms are getting worse
  • you notice changes to your sense of smell

Treatment from a GP

A GP should be able to tell if you have nasal polyps by looking inside your nose.

If you have nasal polyps, you'll usually be given steroid nose drops or a spray to shrink the polyps.

You may be given steroid tablets, usually for up to 2 weeks, if:

  • your polyps are large
  • nose drops and sprays did not work

Make sure you follow the advice of the GP about how to use your medicine and how long to take it for.

Surgery to remove polyps

If there's no sign of improvement after about 10 weeks, the GP may suggest surgery to remove your polyps.

Most people who have surgery see an improvement, but it's common for polyps to grow back, usually within a few years.

Important: Important

You may need to keep using a steroid nasal spray after surgery to stop the polyps returning quickly.

A pharmacist can help with nasal polyps

After seeing a GP, a pharmacist can recommend:

  • steroid nasal sprays that do not need a GP prescription
  • salt water washes (called a saline rinse or nasal douche) to help unblock your nose
Make your own salt water wash
  1. In a bowl, mix 1 level teaspoon of salt and 1 level teaspoon of bicabonate of soda in about 1 pint of cooled boiled water.
  2. Sniff some of the cooled mixture up 1 nostril and let it run out.
  3. Repeat sniffing at least 3 times up each nostril or until your nose clears up.
  4. You can gargle any remaining mixture to help clear the back of the nose.

Check the mixture is not too hot before sniffing. Do not swallow the salty mixture. It may make you feel sick.

These salt water washes are not suitable for children.

Cause of nasal polyps

It's not clear what causes nasal polyps.

Certain things can increase your risk of getting nasal polyps, like:

  • asthma
  • a bad reaction to taking aspirin

Nasal polyps are rare in children.

Page last reviewed: 10 September 2020
Next review due: 10 September 2023