A chronically blocked nose can have a significant impact on one’s quality of life. Just think of the number of sick days taken, increased medication use and its side-effects not to mention refraining from activities like socialising, sports and exercise.

If this scenario sounds familiar to you, you have all the reason to seek medical help. And you have many options at your disposal – from your pharmacist to your GP, Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist (ENT) and an allergy doctor. But where should you seek treatment?

Start with your local pharmacist

If you are experiencing mild, intermittent symptoms that only bother you occasionally for less than three days a week, it’s always a good idea to speak to your local pharmacist. Your pharmacist will be able to offer you the right over-the-counter medicines, like antihistamines and possibly intranasal cortisones.

A chemist might also advise you to use a second-generation antihistamine, as the older ones can have significant side effects like drowsiness and reduced concentration levels.

When over the counter meds don’t work

Sometimes, over-the-counter medication is not effective. Your blocked nose might remain congested daily, and your symptoms might be affecting your daily activities such as sleep, work and sport. If these symptoms are getting more severe, consider being evaluated, treated and monitored by your GP.

Your GP will be able to provide you with guidance and advice on the use of antihistamines and cortisone nasal spray.

If your symptoms remain persistent, severe, and if you are suffering from recurrent infections, your GP is also likely to refer you to someone else for specialised treatment.

The role of an allergy doctor

If you – despite your GP or pharmacist’s best efforts – still experience a blocked nose, an allergy test will offer you more insight into the causes for your blocked nose. An allergy doctor will be able to test you accurately and explain your allergies and how to manage them.

At the Allergy Clinic, we use a three-step approach: First, we test our patients to see if there are allergens in their environments they can avoid. If there are only seasonal allergens, such as trees and weeds, we will start pre-season treatment so they can be ready for spring. Having the correct medication, and understanding the possible side effects and safety measures, will help you work out a plan that suits your individual needs and triggers.

Your allergy doctor will also be able to explain to you how your immune system can be altered by Immunotherapy. This has the potential to provide long-term relief, or at least improve your symptoms to a level where you will only need standard treatments like antihistamines and nasal sprays.

Your allergy doctor might also refer you to an ENT to examine your airways.

How surgery might help

ENT’s play a critical role when it comes to the management of patients’ allergic airways. When you have infected sinuses that do not clear up, an ENT will be able to remove some of the infected materials from your sinuses by washing it out in theatre, or even in their consulting rooms. Nasal polyps need to be diagnosed by either looking into your nasal passages with an endoscope or a CT scan. Nasal polyps can be treated with medication or in severe cases might need to be surgically removed.

We all need a good bony structure to be able to breathe and minimise infections, and your ENT will make sure your airways are unobstructed to ensure optimal airflow.

A CT scan might reveal a deviated septum, which is when there are bony abnormalities in your nasal airways. This often aggravates allergic rhinitis (sinusitis), and the removal of these bony abnormalities has the potential to offer long term relief.

That said, there’s always a possibility that your symptoms might return after sinus surgery. If it does, and you haven’t yet sought treatment or diagnosis for possible allergies, it might be a good idea to visit your nearest allergy doctor.

The importance of exploring all avenues

It’s always wise to follow a comprehensive approach by determining whether a chronically blocked nose is caused by an allergy, or not. A good allergy doctor or ENT will ensure all possible causes of your blocked nose are checked before proceeding with a treatment protocol. Seeking treatment at either specialist will pay dividends, provided all the causes and treatment avenues are considered.

Think of it this way: An ENT takes care of the outside building, while your allergy doctor is the interior decorator – by working together, both can assist you in living your best life.

© 2019 | Dr Marinda McDonald | Practice number 0015393 | All rights reserved

  • The purpose of this article is to raise awareness of allergies and the treatment options that are available for it. This article should by no means be used, or viewed, as a primary source for medical advice. Please arrange for a personal consultation with your medical practitioner before taking any decisions that could affect the wellbeing of you or your loved ones. Read our medical disclaimer for more information.


Marinda McDonald

Dr Marinda McDonald has offered specialised treatments for allergies for most of her professional career. Read more about her on the home page of this website (allergydoc.co.za).

1 Comment

Hairstyles · January 28, 2020 at 1:06 am

This actually answered my downside, thanks!

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