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Allergies to indoor triggers like pet dander, along with outdoor triggers such as mold are potential causes of congestion. Congestion from allergies can also occur seasonally, when a high pollen count triggers hay fever1.

The good news is that help is at hand. Read on to explore some common congestion symptoms and what they mean for your body. We’ll examine the link between allergies and congestion, as well as sharing tips for getting congestion relief so you can free up your airways, and your day.

What is Congestion – and What Does it Feel Like?

Congestion is a feeling of stuffiness or swelling in your nasal passages that causes discomfort and makes it feel as though its difficult to breathe in or out of your nostrils freely. It may be the result of an infection, allergens, or other irritants entering your nasal passages3.

Here are some common types of congestion to keep in mind:

Nasal Congestion

Nasal Congestion

Allergies, viruses and dust particles could all lead to nasal congestion, commonly referred to as a stuffy nose. Breathing in unwanted substances can inflame and swell the tissues that line your nasal passages. Your body then produces mucus to get rid of the irritant.3

While it’s all part of the body’s natural defense system, you may be left with a blocked, heavily congested nose as a result.

Nasal Congestion

Sinus Congestion

Sinus congestion may also result from allergies and infections. The sinuses are air cavities found in your facial bones and forehead. Irritants can cause them to swell and close, driving up the pressure and pain. You might experience a headache or soreness around your face4.

Congestion Symptoms

Congestion can leave your head and face feeling tight and heavy. This may lead to discomfort and frustration. After all, a muffled voice and fast-emptying tissue carton are major inconveniences when you’ve got a lot going on in your day.

In more severe cases, the build-up of pressure from congestion could cause significant pain.

Your exact congestion symptoms will depend on the affected area and how your body reacts. Some common issues to watch out for3,4, include:

Stuffy, blocked nose

Stuffy, blocked nose

Heavy mucus production

Heavy mucus production

Runny nose and sneezing

Runny nose and sneezing



Sinus pain

Sinus pain in your face, or even jaw pain



Can Allergies Cause Congestion?

Yes, allergies can cause congestion. In fact, allergies are a very common cause of congestion. While it may feel unpleasant, congestion is one of your body’s main defenses against allergen ‘intruders’.

When your body senses an allergen, such as pollen or pet dander, it will react to the foreign substance, causing allergy symptoms. Below is the process that occurs when allergens cause cause congestion symptoms5:

Allergen detected

Your immune system flags a particular substance as harmful. This could be pollen, mold or pet dander, for example

Antibodies produced

Your body creates antibodies, ready for the next appearance of the allergen

Histamine released

When the allergen reappears, the antibodies release a chemical called histamine into your bloodstream

Congestion builds

Histamine then can lead to congestion symptoms as your body fights off the allergen. Watch out for rapid mucus production, plus a tightening of the sinuses and nasal passages

Whether you experience sinus or nasal congestion from allergies, the symptoms can be uncomfortable and frustrating.

Allergy Triggers that Can Cause Congestion

Everyone’s body will react differently to allergens. But there are some common triggers6 that may lead to congestion:


Seasonal allergies caused by pollen spores from trees, plants and ragweed


Pet dander from cats and dogs

Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew around your home or outdoors

Other Common Congestion Causes

Of course, sinus and nasal congestion aren’t always triggered by allergies. The following illnesses and irritants could also leave you feeling clogged up:

Common cold

Symptoms include a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing and coughing7. You can learn more about the differences between colds and allergies with our guide.


Along with fevers and chills, flu often leads to a stuffy nose and headaches8

Airborne irritants

Think cigarette smoke, excessive dust or even strong perfume as potential triggers9,3

Acute sinusitis

This infection causes a build-up of mucus, and swelling in your sinuses10

Allergy Congestion Relief

Easing the symptoms of allergies doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some potential prevention methods and treatments that you can try:

Clean your home regularly

Cleaning carpets and surfaces could prevent indoor allergens and irritants from building up

Improve the airflow

Air conditioning systems and portable HEPA filters are among your options

Stay weather-savvy

Consider staying indoors and closing windows when the pollen count is particularly high. Check your local allergy forecast to check pollen count and see how allergies might impact your day.

Wash your bedding

A regular hot wash could stop dust mites from gathering in sheets, pillowcases and blankets

Bathe your pets

Regular baths could lower the risks of animal-related allergens

Consider antihistamines

These medications help relieve common allergy symptoms that are caused by histamines. Explore how antihistamines work with our guide.

Consider a decongestant

These products are specifically designed to tackle congestion. Decongestants, like Zyrtec-D®, can offer temporary relief from blocked sinuses and nasal passages.

Does ZYRTEC® relieve congestion?

ZYRTEC-D® combines effective allergy relief with a powerful decongestant. In fact, taking ZYRTEC-D® tablets for congestion could offer you 12-hour relief from eight common symptoms including nasal and sinus congestion, sneezing, stuffy nose and runny nose.

Learn all about how ZYRTEC-D® works & discover if it might be the best option for you.

Congestion from Allergies: FAQs

How can I tell if my congestion is from a cold or allergies?

While their symptoms often overlap, colds and allergies are separate issues, with different causes. You can learn how to tell if your symptoms are caused by a cold or allergies by taking our short quiz.

When should I see a doctor about my congestion?

While there’s no hard and fast rule, you may wish to see a doctor if your nasal congestion symptoms last more than 10 days11. The same goes if you have a high fever. However, you’ll ultimately know your body best. Use your own judgment if things don’t feel right – and err on the side of caution.

Can allergies cause a sinus infection?

Allergies have the potential to cause a sinus infection if they lead to long-term swelling. Indeed, sinus congestion from allergies and illnesses could cause a bacterial infection if the blockage continues for a long period12.

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