Runny nose means fluid coming out of your nasal passages. Stuffy nose refers to obstruction of the nasal passages. Runny and stuffy nose can be symptoms of the same underlying problem. They may present alternatively. They signify some form of inflammation and thickening of the lining of the nasal and sinus walls.
The drainage from the nose can be watery and colourless or thick and yellowish. Thick and tenacious discharge is difficult to clear. Sometimes it can be foul smelling too. Many a times the runny nose is associated with itching of nose and eyes, watering of eyes and sneezing. These are classical symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Excessive production of mucus drips down from the back of the nose into the throat causing cough and lump sensation in throat.
The most common causes for runny nose are viral infection (the common cold), influenza, bacterial infection (acute rhintis), allergies, hay fever and sinusitis.
Other less common causes of runny nose are-
- Adenoid enlargement
- Nasal polyps
- Foreign body lodged inside nose
- Hormonal changes
- Intake of spicy and hot foods
- Weather changes
- Irritants from air, Pollution, Dust
- Tumor inside nose
- Increased sensitivity of nasal lining (Vasomotor rhinitis)
- Spinal fluid leak
- Nose trauma
What has to be done
Runny nose due to most of the above mentioned causes are not serious. They can be managed to some extent at home itself. There are some remedies which can be utilized, with doctors guidance, and benefit may be obtained. The remedies are
- Anti-allergic measures– Stay away from a known allergen, say pollen or dust mites. Take an antihistaminic pill, like fexofenadine or loratidine.
- Nasal Sprays– saline nasal sprays can improve the quality of the mucus by flushing out irritants and prevent running nose. Steroidal sprays are available. Use these sprays only after a doctors consult has been obtained.
- Drink plenty of fluids– This will lighten the secretions making it easier to deal with. Tenacious and thick secretions are very bothersome.
- Hot Shower or Steam– Taking a hot shower or inhaling steam can result in some decongestion of the nasal cavities and help clear the nasal passages.
- Hot fluids– Drinking hot fluids, like soups or teas, can help relieve the common cold though these are temporary measures.
- Getting appropriate support– Contacting an ENT or Clinical Allergist is the best way to find out the cause for your problem and obtain the right solution for it. Your doctor will be able to suggest the right measures and OTC medicines. For expert opinion on allergy and related conditions contact us.
If you have some injury to the nose and clear fluid starts coming down, then contact your ENT soon as there is a chance that this fluid is spinal in origin. When there is a breach in the bony boundary between the nasal lining and brain at the top of the nasal passages spinal fluid may leak outside. In a few people, such a leak of spinal fluid may occur even without any trauma, like in middle aged ladies, in who spontaneous leaks have been documented. A simple test is to collect the fluid in a kerchief and see if it stiffens. Stiffening indicates that the fluid might be the usual nasal secretion only and not spinal fluid.
Contact your ENT via online support/actual visit when you experience the following –
- Persistent runny nose for more than a week
- Thick yellow discharge
- Headache or facial pain
- Loss of sense of smell
- Sore throat
- Blood in the discharge
- Clear fluid coming out after head injury
Special Advice for those who have allergies–
Allergen avoidance is the best solution to prevent allergies. When you know that you have allergies to any specific substance in air or food, please take particular care to avoid that substance. Maintaining a pollen calendar is helpful. You may want to keep your room and surroundings free of house dust mites, furry toys and pets. Runny nose is one of the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. If the allergy occurs in lower airways then breathing difficulty may ensue. Immunotherapy (Allergy shots) are being taken by increasing number of people these days and that offers a near to permanent cure from allergies.
Nasal lavage using neti pots are useful in a lot of cases. Get an ENT opinion before you start so as to find out if this is appropriate for you. Use of lavage in an injured nose with some connection to brain may prove disastrous. Sometimes it may introduce bacteria and viruses from outside into your pristine nasal lining. That being said, neti pots and saline nasal rinses are commonly prescribed for sinus patients. Medicated nasal douches with steroids and antibiotics are available for allergy and sinus patients.
In many of the cases, runny nose resolves easily with OTC medicines and allergen avoidance. With the right measures and precautions, our readers can keep themselves free from runny nose and allergies. Before taking own medications or home remedies for runny nose we suggest that our readers get a professional consult. This will ensure that they avoid worsening their condition and being forced to visit an ENT specialist at his clinic.