An itchy nose can be surprisingly disruptive and irritating. While it's often a symptom of allergies, determining the underlying cause is important to find relief. Whether due to seasonal allergies, irritants in the environment, or other factors, treatments are available to help put an end to the discomfort of a persistently itchy nose. This article will explore the potential causes and symptoms of an itchy nose, as well as offer recommendations for finding relief.
What Causes An Itchy Nose?
Plenty of things, both environmental and biological, can make a nose feel itchy or irritated. In some cases, the sensation may be accompanied by additional symptoms. Let's take a look at the most common causes of an itchy nose and why they occur:
Allergies are the most well-known cause of an itchy nose. They occur when the body mistakes an otherwise-harmless particle like pollen as a threat and attempts to expel it from the body with an immune response. Nose itchiness is a common part of this process, resulting from irritation within the nostrils and upper respiratory system.
The same allergens that cause seasonal allergies can trigger asthma and lead to an itchy, runny nose. For those with allergic asthma, nose itchiness may accompany other symptoms like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath during an attack or flare-up.
Some respiratory irritants, such as smoke, chemicals, perfumes, and gasses, can cause the nose to itch. This differs from allergies in that virtually everyone is affected by it, and there's no faulty immune response involved. The airways simply react to the irritant, causing discomfort and itchiness in the nose.
Rhinitis and Sinusitis
Rhinitis is a general term for inflammation of the nose, while sinusitis is inflammation of the sinuses. Both these conditions are commonly caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Symptoms can include nasal congestion, runny nose, postnasal drip, and an itchy sensation in the nostrils. This is usually accompanied by a stinging feeling up the nostrils and persists for several days.
In some cases, an itchy nose can be the result of a dermatologic irritation like eczema. Medically referred to as atopic dermatitis, this condition is characterized by the development of itchy lesions on the skin. It can occur virtually anywhere, including on, under, and around the nose.
Nasal polyps are growths that can develop in the sinuses and cause blockages and congestion, as well as a persistent itch in the nose. They are usually harmless but can occasionally cause breathing difficulties and should be checked out by a doctor.
Irritated or Dry Skin
Your nose may also itch if the skin becomes too dry, due to either excessive washing or weather conditions. An irritated nose can also be the product of frequent nose blowing or rubbing. In both cases, the skin becomes more vulnerable and can become itchy as a result.
How Do Allergies Cause Itchy Nose?
The actual process behind an itchy nose is quite simple. When the immune system releases chemicals like histamine in response to the allergen, it increases blood flow to the nasal passages and causes inflammation. This can lead to swelling, congestion, and a burning sensation in the nose canal - which can eventually become itchy.
In some cases, inflammation may not just be restricted to the nose and can spread throughout the airways, causing a sore throat and chest pains as well.
Signs and Symptoms
An itchy nose is generally considered a symptom in and of itself. It can range in severity but is very common among allergy sufferers. Those who are sensitive to airborne substances such as dust mites, mold spores, pet dander, and pollen may be more likely to develop an itchy nose or a more severe case. Generally speaking, an itchy nose caused by allergies can be identified by the following signs.
Urge to Itch the Nose
The uncomfortable sensation of an itchy nose often inclines people to want to scratch or rub it to find relief. This is the main characteristic of an itchy nose and can be difficult to resist. However, frequent rubbing can irritate the nose further or even lead to infection.
With itching and rubbing often comes inflammation and redness around the nose. This is a common symptom for most allergies and can indicate that an allergic reaction has taken place or is about to take place.
Allergic reactions cause the nasal passages to swell with fluid, resulting in a stuffy or congested nose. This can make it difficult to breathe through the nose and further exacerbate the itchy sensation.
The nasal inflammation brought on by allergies can also increase mucus production, leading to a runny nose. This discharge may be clear and watery or thick and discolored depending on the severity of the allergy. Blowing the nose frequently to clear out mucus can further irritate its lining and worsen itchiness.
Sneezing is another common symptom of allergic reactions and often accompanies an itchy nose. This reflex helps to expel irritants from the nasal passages but can worsen irritation and itchiness. Sneezing fits are common when allergies flare up and the nose is most sensitive.
Facial Pressure or Headache
The inflamed nasal tissues and sinus cavities can put pressure on surrounding areas of the face, resulting in facial pressure and headaches. These sensations are often most prominent in the forehead, behind the eyes, and in the cheeks - and may worsen when lying down flat.
How To Stop Itchy Nose
The most effective way of treating an itchy nose is addressing whatever problem is responsible for causing it. This can sometimes take time but is your best bet for long-term relief. In the interim, home remedies like those listed below may be able to help.
If your itchy nose is caused by allergies, over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines can help reduce inflammation and provide short-term relief. Popular brands include Benadryl, Claritin, and Zyrtec. These medications work by blocking the effects of histamine, the chemical responsible for allergy symptoms.
Nasal sprays containing corticosteroids or antihistamines can also help reduce inflammation and congestion. These sprays provide direct relief to the nasal passages and sinuses. Decongestant nasal sprays may provide additional relief by shrinking swollen tissues.
Moisturize and Protect
If dry or irritated skin is the culprit, keeping your nose moisturized and protected can help. Apply a fragrance-free moisturizer or petroleum jelly around the nose, especially after washing or blowing it. Wearing a scarf over your nose in cold, dry weather can also help maintain moisture and prevent irritation.
Avoid Triggers and Irritants
Try to identify and avoid any potential irritants that could be causing or exacerbating your itchy nose. This could include harsh soaps, fragrances, cigarette smoke, and dry air. Keeping your home well-ventilated and using a humidifier can help improve air quality and prevent dryness.
When to See a Doctor
As uncomfortable and interrupting to day-to-day life as it is, an itchy nose is almost always a non-serious problem. There are, however, rare cases when you’ll want to get yours checked out. If your symptoms last for multiple weeks, don’t respond to treatment, or are accompanied by additional concerns like fever, headaches, unusual nasal discharge, and coughing, it’s worth considering a visit to the doctor. This may be indicative of a bacterial infection and require treatment or further testing to address.
Diagnosing an allergy-induced runny nose starts with taking an allergy test. The conventional way of doing this is through skin pricking - a process of pricking the skin with fine needles containing common allergen extracts. If you react to a particular extract, it will indicate an allergy.
Blood tests can also be used to check for allergy-specific antibodies. Wyndly's at-home testing kits make doing so easy, fast, and affordable. Simply order one to your door, take a single prick of your finger to draw a sample, and send it back to us. Our doctors will interpret your results and create a personalized treatment plan for your allergies.
Once you've identified the allergen responsible for your itchy nose, you'll have a few different treatment options. The first is simple mitigation - avoiding the allergen as much as possible and using nasal sprays or antihistamines to manage symptoms when exposed. For allergies that don’t respond to OTC medications, sublingual immunotherapy may provide longer-term relief by helping your body build up a tolerance.
Take Our Allergy Assessment
Tired of suffering from an itchy nose? Wyndly can help you take back control. Our allergy doctors will work with you to identify what allergens are causing your itchy nose and create a personalized sublingual immunotherapy treatment plan to get you long-term relief from your allergies.
Take our quick assessment to see if Wyndly is right for you.