RUNNY NOSE CAUSESRunny noses result when the membranes inside your nose get irritated or inflamed, causing the glands in your nose and sinuses to produce excess mucus. They always produce mucus, of course, but they step up the production when you are threatened with an infection or virus, such as a cold or flu, or with an allergen, such as animal dander or pollen. It is the body’s way of defending you against these foreign bodies, but sometimes the body’s cure can be more irritating than the original illness itself. Besides allergens, infections, and viruses, runny noses can be caused by cold temperatures, spicy foods, and hormonal changes, such as pregnancy.
Babies and older people are especially at risk for runny noses and their accompanying complications. Babies have very small nasal passages, so it doesn’t take very much for them to get inflamed and swollen, leading to increased congestion and increased mucus production. In elderly people, the nasal membranes shrink, resulting in thicker membranes and thicker mucus production.
Runny noses are annoying, but sometimes they can point to a more serious condition. If your symptoms continue for more than two weeks, or if you have a fever along with your runny nose, you should inform your doctor. Also, if your mucus is green, or if you have sinus pain or a fever, you may have a bacterial infection such as a sinus infection. If your nose, or your child’s nose runs on one side only, it could mean that something is lodged inside the nostril. If you have had a head injury and you then experience a runny nose that runs clear or contains blood, this may be a concern and should be brought to your doctor’s attention. And if you have asthmas or emphysema, or if you are taking immune-suppressing drugs, always let your doctor know about these symptoms.
Image: Runny nose
RUNNY NOSE SYMPTOMSIt is easier to diagnose the cause of a runny nose if it accompanied by some other symptom. Fortunately, that is often the case. There are seventy causes for runny nose with head symptoms, but that is a significantly narrowed list from the full hundred twenty eight. A runny nose can accompany face symptoms, cold symptoms, other nose symptoms, stuffed nose, discolored discharge, nerve symptoms, pain, throat symptoms, breathing problems, fever, headache or sore throat. Each of those categories of symptoms has several options within each category, but the more symptoms you can report to your doctor, the easier it will be for him or her to narrow it down.
A related companion to a runny nose, and one significant complication of it, is postnasal drip. This is one major source of the irritation and discomfort of a runny nose. Postnasal drip is when the excess mucus drips down the back of your throat and into your stomach. When you are well, you usually just swallow this, it gets expelled through your digestive system, and you don’t think about it, but when your nose is running, the mucus feels like it is accumulating in the back of your throat. This is often what causes the cough and sore throat that go along with a runny nose; the longer you have a runny nose, the longer you’re likely to have a sore throat and cough.
RUNNY NOSE TREATMENTSometimes the only thing you can do to relieve your runny nose or postnasal drip is to sniff and blow. Tissues that contain lotion help with the redness and irritation caused by constant blowing and wiping. In these cases, make sure to wash your hands frequently; if your nose is running due to a cold or infection, you do not want to spread it to others. You can also irrigate the nose with salt water, which rinses out excess mucus, in addition to other irritants such as pollutants, bacteria, and crusted or dried mucus. If your discharge is persistent and watery, an antihistamine might be helpful. These can be obtained over the counter or by prescription, and can be very helpful if your runny nose is caused by allergies. Some antihistamines can make you drowsy, but they can also slow the flow of mucus being produced by your glands, and cause germs to stay inside you nasal passages longer, so that they are not being spread. There is no cure or treatment for a cold, but any of these treatments might help alleviate your symptoms. If you have yellow or green discharge, you may have in infection, and your doctor may decide to prescribe antibiotics.
In order to avoid postnasal drip, try to avoid letting your throat get any more irritated than it already it. Avoid things like cigarette smoke, pollen, animal dander, and sudden temperature changes, which stimulate mucus production. Keep hydrated; drink plenty of water. This will keep your mucus thin and make it easier for it to run unnoticed down the back of your throat. In addition to keeping the inside of your body hydrated, also keep the outside hydrated by running a humidifier. This will keep the mucus in your nose and throat from getting thick in the dry air.
If none of these treatment measures works, be sure to let your doctor know. They can offer prescription treatments that might be helpful. Other treatments that sometimes prove effective include combination medications that include both decongestives and antihistamines. If the runny nose is caused by allergies, it can be treated not only by antihistamines, but by allergy shots, and even steroid treatments. In extreme cases, where a runny nose is caused by a physiological problem such as a malformation in the nose, surgery might be required to fix the problem.