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Runny Nose

What is runny nose?

Runny nose simply means fluid (mucus) discharged from the nose. It is also referred to as nasal discharge or rhinorrhoea in medical terms.

How runny nose happens

Any sort of irritation to the inner lining of your nose (mucosal lining) stimulates production of a fluid called mucus. The nose secrets this fluid to trap harmful substances like bacteria, viruses, pollen or pet dander and prevent their inhalation.

Once something harmful is inhaled, the nose releases the mucus and traps the contaminants before it reaches lungs.

When it is in thin form it comes out of your nose as a discharge. It may drip also into your throat known as post nasal drip. From throat it moves down to the nasal cavity into the stomach. Sometimes you may pull the secretion from your throat and spit it out from your mouth.

However, when it becomes thick and dried it may block your nose causing problems in inhalation.

What are the signs?

Nasal discharge itself can be a symptom in case of this condition. Mucus discharge from the nose which leads to a runny nose is the most prominent and visual symptom.

Nasal discharge being the most evident symptom, sometimes even before one has a runny nose, they can experience other symptoms.

Itching sensation inside the nose

Sneezing sensation

Feeling a drip or liquid flowing down the throat

Congestion or block in the nose

Movement of mucus in the nasal cavity when breathing in or out heavily

People may also face other accompanied symptoms if runny nose is part of another medical condition.

When one is experiencing common cold, symptoms might include:

• Stuffy nose or Congestion

• Sneezing

• Runny nose

• Coughing

• Watery eyes

• Sore throat

• Mucus dripping in the throat (post-natal drip)

• Headache

• Body ache

If one is experiencing sinusitis, they may have runny nose along with other symptoms of common cold like congestion, headache and sore throat.

Conditions like allergy might trigger severe sneezing and itchy eyes along with runny nose and coughing.

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When is the right time to consult a doctor?

Runny nose can occur due to a lot of reasons, most of which aren’t really something to be scared about. Simple home remedies and rest usually helps in getting rid of runny nose.However, sometimes it may be associated with a serious condition needing urgent medical help.

Consult a doctor in presence of:

Stuffed nose with swelling of the forehead, cheeks, side of the nose or eyes

Blurred vision with stuffy nose

Foul smelling nasal discharge

Discoloured mucus other than white or yellow

Cough lasting more than 10 days with grey or yellow-green mucus and no improvement

Nasal discharge after an impact or injury to the head

Runny nose lasting for more than 3 weeks

Fever associated with runny nose

Throat pain

White or yellow spots on the tonsils or throat

Bleeding with nasal discharge

The above mentioned symptoms can occur in both children and adults alike. Stay vigilant in case of kids or young children as situation can worsen quickly if left unattended.

Some other symptoms that might need immediate medical attention in case of kids include:

Fever in a child below 2 months of age

Difficulty in breathing

Foul smelling discharge

Bleeding

Foreign object stuck in the nose

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What are the causes for a runny nose?

Nasal discharge or runny nose is a protective measure of the body and can occur as a reaction to many things. Some of the conditions that cause a runny nose are mentioned below

 

DiseasesDescriptionCauses
AllergiesA common occurrence during change in weather, allergic response may trigger mucus discharge.Foreign particles like pollen, dust or pet dander
Common ColdAlso referred to as upper respiratory tract infection, inflammation in the mucus membrane can result in excess mucus production and congestion or a stuffy nose.

 

Common cold can occur due to a viral infection, the most common virus for common cold is rhinovirus.
SinusitisAn infection in the sinuses can cause inflammation and excess mucus production. Severe headache and a runny nose is a common case in sinusitis.It can be caused due to a viral infection, which is often the most common reason. A bacterial or fungal infection can also trigger sinusitis.
FluAlong with a runny nose, fever could be a prominent symptom and it is more dangerous than a common cold.

It can be very harmful for:

• Young children

• Old people

• People suffering from immunity issues

Flu occurs due to a viral infection that affects the lungs, nose and throat.
Deviated SeptumDeviated septum (displacement of the wall dividing the nostrils) also called crooked nose wall can give rise to a runny nose and cause pressure on the sinuses.Sinus Infection
Nonallergic RhinitisAlso known as vasomotor rhinitis, it causes inflammation in the nasal membrane but is not triggered by an allergy.The cause for its occurrence is not known but it may be triggered due to:

• Medication

• Change in temperature

• Exposure to cold air

• Underlying health problems

Respiratory Tract InfectionsIt can lead to inflammation and excess mucus secretion or a runny nose. Younger children and old adults can be at a risk of a major infection and might need medical attention.It is caused due to Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) or Human or thopneumovirus.
Nasal PolypsThese are sac like growth in the inflamed tissue lining of the nose and the sinuses.May occur due to certain medical conditions like asthma, recurring infections or allergies.

 

What are other reasons for a runny nose?

Medical conditions

Other reasons for runny nose:

 

Dry Air

Excess dry air can dry out the nasal cavities and the mucus membranes. This can trigger an inflammatory response and cause excess secretion of mucus to make the nasal cavities moist.

It can occur in cold temperatures due to cold air or in case of excess dry air in the house due to external heating.

 

Medications

Although there are medicines to treat a runny nose, some other medicines can trigger a runny nose.

These medications include:

• Anti-depressants

• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen

• Medication used for high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, seizures and other conditions

• Sedatives

 

Overuse of Nasal Spray

Although nasal decongestant sprays are meant to help relieve a blocked nose, overuse can sometimes cause further congestion.

Precaution: Avoid using nasal spray continuously for more than a few days.

 

Spicy Food

Spicy food can cause nerve stimulation in the sinuses and lead to excess mucus production. This is a form of non-allergic rhinitis called gustatory rhinitis.

It is usually temporary and goes away once the consumption of the spicy food is restricted or stopped.

 

Smoking

Excess smoke or exposure to smoke can also trigger an allergic response from the mucus membrane, making it produce excess mucus.

 

Pregnancy

Excess hormones in the body during pregnancy can also cause a runny nose.

 

Hormonal Imbalance

Hormonal changes occurring in the body during puberty, due to consumption of birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy can induce a non-allergic rhinitis.

This can cause enlargement of blood vessels in the nasal cavity and also trigger mucus production.

 

Foreign object

Foreign objects stuck inside the nose can often damage the nerves in the nasal cavity. It may cause bleeding as well as nasal discharge or mucus.

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How is runny nose diagnosed?

Runny nose itself is a prominent symptom, but additional symptoms might prove underlying conditions that may need to be diagnosed.

In worst case scenarios, as mentioned before, when visiting the doctor, one can expect the following things.

What are the home remedies for a runny nose?

Some of the common remedies, that can help with runny nose and might relieve common cold symptoms, are mentioned below.

Stay hydrated

Thick mucus can cause congestion and it can also be difficult to drain due to its consistency.

How is runny nose treated by a doctor?

Depending on the diagnosis of the condition, there might be different forms of treatment that can be administered by a doctor.

Rest: Most cases of common cold and viral diseases might go away with proper rest at home.

Medication:

• Bacterial infection might require a dose of antibiotics.

• Fever and pain reducing medication may be suggested for flu.

• Antihistamines are effective against conditions arising from allergy.

Surgery: Extreme circumstances in cases of nasal polyps, deviated septum or sinus blockage might require minor surgical procedures to help reduce the symptoms.

Runny nose is not a major concern and taking proper care at home can prove to be very beneficial in getting rid of the symptoms.

Avoiding contact with people who are suffering from similar symptoms and maintaining hand hygiene can go a long way in preventing infections.

One should always look out for additional symptoms and consult a doctor in case of a child or if the signs are severe.

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