The mucus shift...

I’m currently battling the dreaded summer cold and I have two questions that have always plagued my mind.

  1. Why do my sinuses clear when I go from sitting to standing or laying to sitting, etc.? I doubt the atmospheric pressure is that different that the thinner air pushes it out. But I can’t seem to figure out why they clear.

  2. Why is it that when I’m laying on my side, the nostril closest to the bed (the side I’m laying on) is always stuffy, but the top one clears up. I didn’t think they were connected in a way that the mucus can just slide from the top nostril to the bottom.

I, my curious mind, and my plugged sinuses appreciate your answers!

They are connected, otherwise the neti pot wouldn’t work.

Get a neti pot. I promise it will help you, at least with the snot issue.

Gravity accounts for most of the observed effect, I believe.

FYI, most of what’s stuffing you up isn’t mucus, it’s your own swollen nasal tissues. That’s why you can still be stuffy even if you’ve blown your nose completely clear. Doesn’t really change your answers, but it’s nice to know.

The previous two answers have hinted at the issue.

It is because of blood pressure. Nasal congestion is caused by the swelling of nasal tissues which block the airways.

When you are standing, your head has much lower blood pressure because of its height over the rest of your body. As your head gets lower with respect to the rest of your body (sitting or laying down) the blood pressure in your nasal tissues increases and swell, which cause congestion.

This is why the “lower” side of your nose is more likely to be stopped up when you are laying on your side.

As a long-time allergy sufferer, I deal with issue every day of my life. Products with psuedaphedrine (Sudafed and others that you have to buy from behind the pharmacy counter) work the best.

NyQuil and other decongestant products used to be sold with psuedaphedrine, but they cannot be bought without purchasing them through the pharmacy counter. Because of this, most over-the-counter oral decongestants contain phenylephrine which pretty much everyone agrees is a much inferior decongestant.

Be careful with spray nasal decongestants. You can become addicted to them with extend (5+ day) use and their continual use can cause nasal tissue damage.

True, but when in the height of a “duffy doze”, Afrin is a lifesaver! It’s like a RotoRooter for your nose.

Just a bit of additional information. At all times (healthy or with a cold), the nasal mucus membranes cycle from being engorged with blood to restricted blood flow. This mechanism allows the engorged side to secrete lots of mucus because of the increased fluids present in the vessels of the membrane. While one side is engorged, the other side isn’t, and has a higher rate of air flow. The open side has copious mucus from its recent engorgement, but the mucus will dry out as air flows over and is humidified.

When nasal inflammation occurs, this alternate narrowing of the nasal passages becomes much more obvious…that is mostly the reason you get stuffed up - not by mucus, but mostly by the inflamed membranes. Blood pressure when lying down is a major player too, as previously noted.

Since mucus is mostly held in low opinion, please remember that you can’t absorb oxygen without the mucus layer in your lung spaces, sperm wouldn’t be able to find the egg, and your digestive tract wouldn’t be able to function. Etc.

Hope you feel better!

You can still get Walgreen’s brand NyQuil with the real stuff in it. That’s the only way I can take psuedaphedrine at night without it keeping me awake.

Ugh… now it has moved into my lungs… stupid summer colds!

Be careful with the neti pot if you’re very congested. I used one a few months ago when I thought I just needed to clear some stuff out of my nose and ended up making things worse! I got a bad sinus infection and I wished I’d not used the neti pot when I did!

It just pushed bacteria up my nasal passages. Felt good at the time, but I paid for it later!

I’d used the sinus rinse many times before with no issues, but boy, when it’s used at the wrong time? Yow.