Runny Nose or Nasal Congestion

A runny nose can be caused by anything that irritates or inflames the nasal tissues. Infections — such as the common cold and influenza — allergies and various irritants may all cause a runny nose. Some people have a chronically runny nose for no apparent reason — a condition called nonallergic rhinitis or vasomotor rhinitis.

Getting a runny nose happens to all of us, a condition that we can easily deal with at home.

There are a few reasons why you might get a runny nose. The most common is a viral infection of the sinuses — typically the common cold.

In other cases, a runny nose may be due to allergies, hay fever, or other causes.

What causes a runny nose?

Your runny nose may have one or more of several causes. Possible causes include:

  • Common cold.
  • Flu.
  • Gustatory rhinitis, a form of nonallergic rhinitis that causes a runny nose when you eat certain foods.
  • Allergies.
  • Cold temperatures.

Is a runny nose a symptom of COVID-19?

Yes: “congestion or runny nose.” Other common symptoms include:

  • Headache.
  • New loss of taste or smell.
  • Muscle or body aches.
  • Sore throat.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Cough.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
  • Fever or chills.
  • Fatigue.

Home remedies

Get plenty of rest.

Speaking of sleep… when you’re not feeling well, it’s crucial to get plenty of sleep so your body can heal. Research shows that your body makes new immune system cells when you are asleep. Proteins known as cytokines that are important for fighting infection and inflammation are produced and released during sleep. This means that sleep can keep your immune system in good shape. Plus, resting will give you a much-needed break from blowing your nose.

Drink plenty of fluids.

If you have a stuffy nose, keeping yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water and clear chicken broth to help make your mucus thinner and more fluid. That will allow it to drain faster from your nose and sinuses. Downing lots of liquids will also keep the membranes in your airways lubricated.

Avoid liquids like caffeine that can cause dehydration.

Rinse your nose with a neti pot.

You can use a neti pot to rinse particles or mucus from your nose if you have nasal congestion symptoms. A neti pot is specially designed to help you flush out mucus. To use it, bend your head sideways over the sink and place the spout of the neti pot in the upper nostril, and then pour a saltwater solution into your upper nostril and let the water drain down the lower nose.5 You can also use other devices such as squeeze bottles and pressurized canisters in place of a neti pot.

Hot teas

On the other hand, hot beverages like tea may sometimes be more helpful than cold ones. This is because of their heat and steam, which help open and decongest airways.

Certain herbal teas may contain herbs that are mild decongestants. Look for teas that contain anti-inflammatory and antihistamine herbs, such as chamomile, ginger, mint, or nettle.

Make a cup of hot herbal tea (preferably non-caffeinated) and inhale the steam before drinking. Sore throats often accompany runny noses — drinking hot herbal tea can help soothe a sore throat, too.

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Eating spicy foods

Spicy foods can make a runny nose worse. However, if you’re also having symptoms of nasal congestion, eating spicy foods can possibly help.

If you can tolerate quite a bit of heat in your food, give it a try. If you’re unaccustomed to spiciness, try a little bit of spicy seasonings at first to see if it helps.

Hot spices like cayenne pepper, ghost pepper, habanero, wasabi, horseradish, or ginger are great options. These spices, while also creating a feeling of heat when eaten, dilate passageways in the body and can relieve sinus issues.

Use the right over-the-counter medicines.

Over-the-counter cold and flu medicines can help relieve your runny nose and nasal congestion symptoms from a cold or flu, along with other common symptoms. Be sure to identify what symptoms aside from runny nose and nasal congestion you may have to make sure you get the relief you need.

Get steamy.

The next time you have a stuffy nose, try sitting in the bathroom with a warm shower running. You can also breathe in steam from a bowl of hot water.

Inhaling warm (not hot) steam can help soothe the mucous membranes lining the nose and make the mucus thinner. This will help you drain your mucus faster.

Use a humidifier.

A clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer is a great way to add moisture back into your environment, which will help with nasal congestion. When the air is too dry, your mucus may get thicker and not flow very well, and your sinuses may not drain properly. You can use a humidifier or cool mist vaporizer to add humidity into the air, which will keep your nasal passages moist, allowing mucus to drain faster.

Hot shower

Need some quick relief? Try a hot shower. Just like a hot tea or facial steam, a shower’s spray can help alleviate a runny and stuffy nose.

Place your face and sinuses directly in the steam and spray of the shower for best results.

Apply a warm compress.

Putting a warm compress to your nose and forehead multiple times a day can help relieve upper respiratory symptoms like nasal congestion. If you don’t have a compress, try moistening a washcloth with warm water and applying it to your face several times a day. This will help to loosen your mucus to help relieve nasal congestion.

What to Do if You Have a Runny Nose

If you have a runny nose or nasal congestion, you may have the common cold, flu, or allergies. The first two are caused by viruses, which can easily spread to other people if you are not careful enough.

To prevent spreading the cold and flu viruses that give you runny or stuffy nose to those around you, follow these:

  • Stay at home while you are sick and keep children home.
  • Don’t make close contact with other people – avoid hugging, kissing, or shaking hands.
  • Before you cough, sneeze, or blow your runny nose, make sure that you are a safe distance away from people.
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away, or cough and sneeze into your upper shirt sleeve while completely covering your mouth and nose.
  • Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, including toys and doorknobs.

Bottom line

There are many home remedies you can try to get relief from a runny nose without using medication.

None of these remedies are designed to actually cure or completely get rid of the underlying causes of runny noses — namely colds, viral infections, or allergies.

These approaches will only give you relief. Make sure to seek more direct treatment if you’re experiencing colds, viruses, and allergies.

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