What are the causes and remedies for a runny nose?

Symptom Database

A runny nose, also known as nasal congestion, is a common symptom experienced by many individuals. It can be caused by various factors such as the common cold, allergies, sinus infections, and other respiratory conditions. Understanding the causes and remedies for a runny nose can help alleviate discomfort and promote a speedy recovery. In this article, we will explore the different causes of a runny nose and provide effective remedies to help you find relief.

Common Cold: The Culprit Behind Runny Noses

The common cold is one of the leading causes of a runny nose. It is a viral infection that affects the upper respiratory system, including the nose and throat. When you catch a cold, your body’s immune system responds by producing excess mucus to flush out the virus. This excess mucus leads to a runny nose, nasal discharge, and sneezing.

To alleviate the symptoms of a runny nose caused by a common cold, consider the following remedies:

  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids helps thin the mucus, making it easier to expel.
  • Use saline nasal sprays: Saline sprays can help moisturize the nasal passages and reduce congestion.
  • Get plenty of rest: Resting allows your body to focus on fighting off the cold virus.
  • Over-the-counter medications: Non-prescription decongestants can provide temporary relief from nasal congestion.

Allergy Symptoms: A Runny Nose Triggered by Allergens

Allergies can also cause a runny nose, commonly known as allergic rhinitis. When your body comes into contact with allergens such as pollen, dust mites, or pet dander, it releases histamines, which trigger an allergic reaction. This reaction leads to symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes.

To manage a runny nose caused by allergies, consider the following remedies:

  • Identify and avoid triggers: Determine the allergens that cause your symptoms and take steps to minimize exposure.
  • Use antihistamines: Over-the-counter antihistamines can help block the release of histamines and alleviate allergy symptoms.
  • Keep your home clean: Regularly dust, vacuum, and wash bedding to reduce allergens in your living environment.
  • Consider allergy shots: If your symptoms are severe and persistent, allergen immunotherapy may be recommended by a healthcare professional.

Sinus Infection: A Potential Cause of Persistent Runny Nose

A sinus infection, also known as sinusitis, can cause a persistent runny nose. It occurs when the sinuses become inflamed and filled with fluid, leading to nasal congestion and discharge. Sinus infections are often caused by bacteria or viruses and can be accompanied by facial pain and pressure.

To treat a runny nose caused by a sinus infection, consider the following remedies:

  • Use nasal irrigation: Rinsing the nasal passages with a saline solution can help flush out mucus and relieve congestion.
  • Apply warm compresses: Placing warm compresses on your face can help alleviate facial pain and pressure.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers: Non-prescription pain relievers can help reduce discomfort associated with sinus infections.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids can help thin mucus and promote drainage.


A runny nose can be caused by various factors, including the common cold, allergies, sinus infections, and other respiratory conditions. Understanding the underlying cause of your runny nose is crucial in finding the most effective remedies. Whether it’s staying hydrated, using saline sprays, or seeking medical treatment for severe symptoms, there are numerous ways to find relief. By following these remedies and taking care of your overall health, you can minimize the discomfort of a runny nose and promote a speedy recovery.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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