Are you constantly grabbing the tissue box as your nose turns into a faucet? If so, you’re not alone! Runny nose and sneezing are unpleasant yet common symptoms that many of us experience occasionally.
Thankfully, getting to the bottom of the cause and knowing how to treat it is fairly straightforward. You may have just a nasty cold, but other underlying issues such as allergies could also be at play.
Discover the most common causes, symptoms, and treatment options for sneezing and a runny nose so you can get back to feeling like yourself again.
What Causes A Runny Nose and Sneezing?
You can sneeze or have a runny nose due to contact with or exposure to anything that inflames or irritates your nasal tissues. These symptoms are a defense mechanism to keep unwanted substances out. Some of the most common triggers to this defense mechanism include:
Allergens such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and mold are some of the most common causes of a runny nose and sneezing. These allergens can trigger inflammation in your nasal tissues, leading to symptoms like sneezing and a runny nose.
The Common Cold
A common cold occurs when a virus infects your upper respiratory tract and causes inflammation of the membranes lining your nasal passages. A common cold will cause a runny nose due to increased mucus production.
The flu, also known as influenza, is a contagious viral infection of the nose, throat, and lungs. It causes more severe symptoms than the common cold, such as high fever, body aches, chills, extreme tiredness, and chest congestion. Just like with a cold, you may experience a runny nose due to increased mucus production.
A sinus infection is an inflammation of the tissue lining the sinuses. It usually happens when the passages become blocked, preventing proper mucus drainage from your nose and throat. As a result, you may have thick, yellow-green colored discharge from your nose as well as facial pain or pressure, sneezing, postnasal drip, sore throat, and coughing.
Breathing in dry air leads to a dry nasal passage, disrupting the fluid balance. The dryness triggers an inflammatory response, which causes a dry nose. This is likely to happen when it’s cold or when there’s too much heat inside your house.
Certain medications, like blood pressure drugs, sedatives, and antidepressants, can also cause a runny nose. This is due to the drying effect of the medication, which causes inflammation in your nasal passages. Overuse of decongestant nasal spray can also cause a runny nose due to a condition known as rebound congestion.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of a runny nose and sneezing depend on the underlying cause. Some of the most common symptoms that are likely to accompany a runny nose and sneezing include:
- Nasal congestion
- Postnasal drip
- Itchy nose and throat
- Sore throat
- Itchy eyes
- Facial pressure or pain from sinus infections
If your runny nose and sneezing are due to the flu, you may have more serious symptoms, such as aches, chills, and fatigue. In cases of allergies, you may also experience itchy eyes, hives, and swelling.
How do Allergies Cause Sneezing and Runny Nose?
When allergens enter your body, the immune system mistakes these harmless substances for threats and triggers a defense response by releasing chemicals to fight the allergens. This causes inflammation that blocks the sinuses and the swelling of your nasal passages, which leads to excess mucus production and congestion.
The accumulation of mucus can irritate the lining of the nose, leading to sneezing as the body attempts to clear out the blockage. The excessive mucus also leads to a dripping or runny nose.
Allergies or COVID-19 Infection
While both conditions can cause similar symptoms, key differences can help you make an educated guess about what might be causing your discomfort. Allergies typically cause mild to moderate symptoms that last longer than viral symptoms.
If you have seasonal allergies, the symptoms may last until the allergen has disappeared. With a COVID-19 infection, the symptoms tend to be more severe and typically only last for several weeks.
COVID-19 symptoms include difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, chills, fever, and loss of smell and taste. In some cases, coronavirus can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea.
Allergies don’t usually cause these symptoms. You will likely only experience shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness if you have respiratory issues like asthma that are exacerbated by exposure to allergens. Allergies also make you itchy, which is not the case with coronavirus infection.
How To Relieve Nasal Congestion and Sneezing
There are plenty of home remedies that can help relieve nasal congestion and sneezing caused by various factors, like allergies. Some of the most effective remedies are:
Use a Neti Pot
A neti pot is a small pot with a spout to flush out the nasal passages with a saltwater solution. The saline solution thins out mucus, reduces inflammation, and flushes out allergens and irritants from the nose. When using a neti pot, use only distilled or sterilized water to make the saltwater solution.
Use a Humidifier
Humidifiers add moisture to the air by releasing small droplets of water vapor. This moist air relieves dryness, reduces inflammation, thins out the mucus in your nasal passages, and makes it easier for you to breathe.
Try a Saline Nasal Spray
Saline nasal sprays can clear out the nasal passages and moisturize them. The saline solution makes the mucus thin, reduces inflammation, and flushes out allergens.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
Staying hydrated is vital when you’re dealing with a runny nose. The fluid keeps your sinuses’ mucus thin, allowing it to run more consistently. As a result, you can easily blow it out to avoid a stuffy nose.
Try a Warm Compress
One of the easiest ways to improve your runny nose and minimize the pressure on your sinus is to apply a warm compress or washcloth to your nose and forehead. The compress will enhance blood circulation in the sinuses and minimize stuffiness by increasing moisture in the air you breathe.
When to See a Doctor
Seek medical care for sneezing and runny nose if:
- The symptoms persist for over ten days, even after trying home remedies
- The discharge from your nose is yellow or green
- You experience chest pain or difficulty breathing
- You experience sinus pain and a high fever
- There’s blood in your nasal discharge
Your doctor will advise you on the best course of treatment based on your individual symptoms and medical history. They may also order tests to rule out other possible causes, such as a sinus infection or viral illness.
Best Medicine for Runny Nose and Sneezing
Your doctor may prescribe various medications to help relieve your runny nose and sneezing. Over-the-counter medications can also relieve the symptoms. Some of the best treatment options include:
Pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can reduce aches and fever, especially if the flu is causing your symptoms. You should carefully read and follow instructions on using these pain relievers, especially when using them on children.
Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine or cetirizine can reduce histamine secretion, a potent inflammatory molecule in your body. This will help alleviate your runny nose and sneezing.
Prescription nasal corticosteroids such as Flonase and Nasacort can reduce the nasal passages' inflammation and mucus production. Since they reduce swelling in the airways, they relieve symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and congestion.
Decongestants such as pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine can reduce swelling in the nasal passages, decreasing congestion and runny nose. However, you should only use them for a short period since long-term use may lead to rebound congestion.
Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is an effective and alternative way to treat allergies without injections. This form of immunotherapy involves placing drops or tablets of allergen extracts under the tongue.
The goal is to build up your tolerance to allergens. Over time, your immune system changes, and you stop reacting to the allergens, reducing symptoms such as sneezing and a runny nose.
Take Our Allergy Assessment
If you want long-term relief from your allergy-induced sneezing and runny nose, it's time to meet our allergy doctors at Wyndly. The doctors will create a personalized treatment plan using sublingual immunotherapy to help you live allergy-free. Take our allergy assessment now to see if Wyndly is right for you.