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.

Symptoms of nasal polyps

Symptoms of nasal polyps include:

Nasal polyps can sometimes feel like a cold. But colds often clear up within a few days. Nasal polyps do 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 your 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

Cause of nasal polyps

It's not clear what causes nasal polyps.

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

  • asthma
  • a bad reaction to taking aspirin

Nasal polyps are rare in children.

Treating nasal polyps

Your GP can often tell if you have nasal polyps by looking inside your nose.

If you have nasal polyps, they may prescribe steroid nose drops or a spray to shrink the polyps.

They may prescribe steroid tablets for up to 2 weeks if:

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

Follow the advice of your GP about how to use your medicine and for how long to take it.

A pharmacist can help with nasal polyps

After seeing your 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
Making a salt water wash at home

You can make your own salt water wash at home. Make a new mixture every time you need to rinse your nose.

Important

This salt water wash is not suitable for children.

You'll need:

  • 1 level teaspoon of salt
  • 1 level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • water
  • a bowl
  1. Boil about 1 pint of water and leave it to cool.
  2. Mix the salt, bicarbonate of soda and the cooled water.
  3. Check that the mixture is cool and pour some into your clean, cupped hand.
  4. Sniff the cooled mixture up 1 nostril and let it run out.
  5. Repeat sniffing at least 3 times up each nostril or until your nose clears up.

You can gargle any remaining mixture to help clear the back of the nose. But do not swallow it. It may make you feel sick.

Surgery to remove polyps

If there's no improvement after about 10 weeks, your GP may suggest referral to an ENT (ear nose and throat) surgeon who may consider surgery to remove the polyps.

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

Information:

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


Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 15 April 2021
Next review due: 15 April 2024