What causes runny nose?

Runny nose results from discharge secreted by the mucous membranes lining the inside of your nose. Allergic reactions are a common cause of runny nose. Such reactions may be caused by pollen (hay fever), animal dander, foods, or medicines.

Inflammation of the nose (rhinitis) is a common cause of runny nose. Other common causes include the common cold (viral respiratory infection), influenza (flu), or sinusitis (inflammation or infection of the sinuses). Inserting objects into your nose can also produce a runny nose.

Common causes of runny nose

Runny nose may have common causes including:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Common cold (viral respiratory infection)
  • Hay fever or allergic reaction from animal dander, dust, cosmetics, or pollen
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Postnasal drip from sinusitis or upper respiratory infection such as the common cold
  • Sinusitis (inflammation or infection of the sinuses)

Other causes of runny nose

Runny nose can also have other causes including:

  • Injury or trauma to head
  • Objects in the nose (usually in children)
  • Overuse of nasal sprays

Serious or life-threatening causes of runny nose

In some cases, runny nose may be a symptom a traumatic injury to the head, a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting.

Questions for diagnosing the cause of runny nose

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your runny nose including:

  • How long have you had a runny nose?
  • When does your nose run?
  • Do you have allergies?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of runny nose?

Because runny nose can be due to a serious head injury or trauma, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Brain damage
  • Paralysis
  • Unconsciousness and coma

References:

Nasal discharge. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003051.htm. Accessed May 26, 2011.

Common cold. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000678.htm. Accessed May 26, 2011.

INTRODUCTION

What is runny nose?

Runny nose (rhinorrhea) is a common symptom of allergy, infection, inflammation, or even physical irritation. Runny nose results from discharge secreted by the mucous membranes lining the inside of your nose. It may occur in conditions affecting the nose itself or along with more generalized conditions, such a common cold or hay fever.... Read more about runny noseintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with runny nose?

Runny nose may accompany other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the respiratory system may also involve other body systems.... Read more about runny nosesymptoms

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Allergies and the Immune System