Alternativesto nasal turbinate surgery

Before going ahead with surgery, there may be other things you can try, depending on your condition.

If you have enlarged turbinates, surgery can be an effective solution, but many people get relief from other treatments without the need for surgery.

Nasal obstruction due to enlarged turbinates is often made worse by allergies. Treating the allergies may improve your nasal obstruction enough for you to breathe through your nose without surgery. Other non-allergic causes can also block the nose. These include medications like oral contraceptives and certain prescription drugs (used for treating high blood pressure and mood disorders), other illnesses (like diabetes or thyroid problems), as well as environmental exposure (like smoke or chemicals), and hormonal changes (like pregnancy or menopause). Your doctor will manage these various causes, which may help your nasal obstruction.

Medications to reduce nasal obstruction and allergies

Nasal steroids

Steroid nasal sprays can be a long-term solution to nasal obstruction, but they don’t give immediate relief. You need to use them on a regular basis to reduce inflammation in your nose. They can cause side effects including headaches, nasal dryness, sore throat and, occasionally, nose bleeds. If you have other health conditions, you should talk to your doctor before taking nasal steroids. Your pharmacist can recommend a steroid nasal spray.

Oral steroids

Your doctor can prescribe steroid tablets to reduce the size of your turbinates. They are only used in the short-term (1–3 weeks) as longer-term use is more likely to cause side effects.

Allergy medications

Your enlarged turbinates may be due to allergies. If so, you may benefit from an antihistamine, which you can get as tablets and nasal sprays. If you’re choosing a tablet, look for one that doesn’t cause drowsiness as this can affect your ability to drive and work.

Non-drug methods of treating nasal obstruction

Nasal strips

These are small adhesive-backed strips that you stick over your nose. They contain spring-like bands that help lift the sides of your nose away from the septum (the structure between your nostrils). They work immediately to open your nasal passages. People often use nasal strips at night, especially if a blocked nose is causing snoring. Nasal strips are available from pharmacies.

Nasal irrigation

Rinsing out the inside of your nose with salt water can help relieve obstruction. It can also boost the effectiveness of the tiny hairs (cilia) that line the inside of your nose and help to clear mucus. Adding salt and bicarbonate of soda will feel more comfortable than plain water.

Commercially available nose and sinus rinses (in squeezy bottles) can be found at pharmacies. Or you can get a nasal irrigation device called a neti pot from some pharmacies. It’s important to keep the neti pot clean to reduce the risk of introducing infection. Also, you must use a safe source of water. Tap water should ideally be boiled and cooled.

You can also buy saline nasal sprays at the pharmacy. They’re a good choice for children with nasal congestion.

A vaporiser or humidifier

Vaporisers and humidifiers add moisture to the air you’re breathing and can ease nasal obstruction, especially if you have an infection. Vaporisers heat water to make steam so they can be a hazard around children, unlike humidifiers which produce a cool mist. If you’re using a vaporiser or humidifier, make sure your room has a chance to dry out regularly as the damp air can harbour bacteria, mould and dust mites. You also need to clean your vaporiser or humidifier carefully after use.

A hot shower

A hot shower creates steam which can act in a similar way to a vaporiser or humidifier and reduce nasal congestion.

Avoiding irritants

If you have enlarged turbinates, avoiding irritants that cause nasal congestion may help you avoid or delay surgery. Many things can cause nasal inflammation or make it worse. An allergic reaction to pollen, dust mites or animals may cause additional nasal symptoms known as allergic rhinitis, which may require treatment with antihistamines.

Irritation from smoke, paint fumes, household chemicals or perfumes is another common cause of nasal inflammation. Some people experience nasal congestion in response to certain foods and drinks like red wine, milk or beer.

Types of nasal turbinate surgery

There are two main ways of relieving nasal obstruction caused by an enlarged nasal turbinate.


Information is provided by HCF in good faith for the convenience of members. It is not an endorsement or recommendation of any form of treatment nor is it a substitute for medical advice, and you should rely on the advice of your treating doctors in relation to all matters concerning your health. Every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, however HCF takes no responsibility for any injury, loss, damage or other consequences of the use of this information.