Imagine having a runny nose throughout! It can be embarrassing, especially if it happens even when you are not ill. A runny nose, also referred to as rhinitis, can have a number of causes. It is not dangerous as such, but definitely annoying. Here’s what you need to know.
Why does My Nose Run all the Time?
Apart from smelling, the nose also protects our bodies from harmful substances like bacteria, viruses and foreign particles such as smoke and dust. A runny nose is as a result of tissues and blood vessels in the nose reacting to irritants, and in turn producing mucous for protection. Here is how to avoid a runny nose caused by irritants:
1. Identify irritants and triggers and keep off- They include allergens present in the environment like dust, pollen and pet dander. Odors (perfumes), cigarette smoke, spicy food, temperature changes and even strong emotions will cause a runny nose.
2. Dust and clean- Accumulated dust and pet dander can trigger a runny nose. Tiny insects called dust mites that inhabit the fiber on carpets, furniture, bedding and mattresses are also culprits. They may not bite or cause pain but they are allergy triggers.
However, there are some medical conditions that cause constant nose running:
People with chronic rhinitis usually have long lasting swelling in the nasal passages. In about 90% of the cases, the swelling is caused by exposure to allergens present in air such as pollen, dust or animal dander. This also triggers the production of excess mucous. The person will have a runny nose with clear discharge, nasal congestion, itching or sneezing.
Why does my nose run all the time? You could also be suffering from chronic non-allergic rhinitis. In this case, one experiences a constant runny nose that cannot be associated with a specific allergen. There is usually no noticeable sneezing and itching. The symptoms are simply as a result of irritation to the nasal passages.
Most of the time, rhinitis that starts from childhood is allergy-based. Non-allergy-based rhinitis usually begins after the age of 20. However, it is not uncommon to find people suffering from the combination of both.
What to Do:
When treating chronic sinusitis, the aim is to reduce sinus inflammation, get rid of the underlying cause, keep draining the nasal passage and reduce flare ups.
Irrigating the nasal passages with nasal sprays or solutions to reduce drainage and rinse away allergens and irritants.
Nasal corticosteroids such as triamcinolone (Nasacort 24, mometasone (Nasonex), budesonide (Rhinocort), fluticasone (Flonase, Veramyst), and beclomethasone (Beconase AQ, Qnasl) come in form of nasal sprays. They prevent and treat inflammation.
In cases where sprays are ineffective, doctors recommend rinsing with a mixture of saline and budesonide drops or using this solution in form of a nasal mist.
Injected or oral corticosteroids are prescribed for people with severe sinusitis. They help relieve inflammation especially if you have nasal polyps.
Aspirin desensitization program is provided if your sinusitis is caused by reactions to aspirin. Under medical supervision, the patient is given large doses of aspirin gradually to build tolerance.
Antibiotics are given if the doctor suspects that the sinusitis is linked to an underlying bacterial infection. Antibiotics can be given along with other medication.
Immunotherapy (allergy shots) can be administered to reduce reaction to specific allergens in a bid to improve the situation.
Endoscopic sinus surgery is the last resort for cases resistant to medication or treatment. An endoscope is used to examine the sinus passages. Based on the source of obstruction, the doctor will use different instruments to remove tissue or a polyp that could be blocking the passage. A narrow sinus can also be enlarged to improve drainage.
Rest helps the body fight inflammation resulting in speedy recovery.
Drinking lots of fluids such as juice and water helps dilute mucus thereby improving drainage. Keep off beverages containing alcohol or caffeine as they can be dehydrating. Alcohol can worsen the swelling in the nasal passage.
Moisturize your nasal cavities by placing a towel over your head as you inhale vapor from a bowl containing medium-hot water directed towards your face. You could also take a hot shower. Breathing in warm, moist air will help drain mucus and ease pain.
Placing a warm, damp towel around your cheeks, eyes and nose also helps to ease pain, congestion and discomfort.
Sleep with your head in an elevated position to aid sinus draining and reduce congestion.
Avoid upper respiratory infections by washing your hands with soap and water especially before eating and reducing contact with people suffering from colds.
Keep off cigarette smoke and polluted air as they cause irritation and inflammation in your nasal passages and lungs. Find out allergens if that’s the cause.
A humidifier, which helps moisten air at home, can help prevent sinusitis. Clean the humidifier regularly to keep it clean and free from mold.
Growths in the lining of nasal passages that are painless, soft and non-cancerous are called nasal polyps. They usually hang like grapes or tear drops. Nasal polyps occur as a result of chronic inflammation caused by recurring infections, drug sensitivity, allergies, asthma or immune disorders. While small nasal polyps may be asymptomatic, large ones or aggregates can cause blocked sinuses, breathing problems, infection or even loss of the sense of smell. Although common in adults, nasal polyps can affect anyone. As much as nasal polyps can be shrunk or eliminated using medications, surgery could be necessary in some cases. They could also recur after successful treatment. Consult your doctor to decide the treatment strategy based on the size the position of the polyp.
Other Possible Causes
Just why does my nose run all the time? Production of clear, thick mucus and swollen nasal membranes could be as a result of viral infections like the common cold. Secondary bacterial infection leads to a prolonged cold and production of yellow or green mucus.
Here is a list of other conditions that can cause a runny nose that lasts for a long time:
A foreign body in the nasal passage
Overuse of decongestant nasal spray
Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener's granulomatosis)
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
Spinal fluid leak
Others with Similar Issues
“Whether I have a cold or not, my nose is always runny. I do not think it is an allergic reaction since I do not itch or sneeze, and pollen or animal dander does not worsen it. I have no sinus issues.
It gets worse when it’s cold and when I eat cooked hot foods or spicy foods. Funny thing is I am fine once I go to bed. My mum has the same problem. My dad and my husband never blow their noses- am jealous.
I find it gross to blow my nose all day. Many people suggest nasal sprays, but how effective are they and how often should I use them? What are the side effects? Are they addictive?”
“Why does my nose run all the time? I found out that the runny nose issue runs in the family. I broke my nose a few times and had two surgeries to put my deviated septum in place. My nose did not run as much when I had a broken and crooked nose. However, I suffered sinus infections and other upper respiratory infections more during this time. I had my deviated septum fixed a few years ago, and since then my nose is runny throughout. It looks like the mechanical fix brought it back!”
“My dad had a runny nose for the last 20 years of his life. It came as a side effect of blood thinner medication. He was really bothered since it intensified whenever he tried to eat. It could be a side effect of the medicine or thinner blood.”