What Is Runny Nose?

Runny nose is excess drainage produced by nasal and adjacent tissues and blood vessels in the nose. This drainage may range from a clear fluid to thick mucus. Runny nose drainage may run out of your nose, down the back of your throat or both.

Rhinorrhea is the medical term for this common problem. The nose makes extra mucus whenever something that is in the nose, such as pollen or dust, needs to be removed. Mucus formation is also part of the histamine reaction to allergies and of the body’s defenses during respiratory infections.

Nasal congestion may or may not accompany runny nose.

Causes:

Runny nose can be caused by anything that irritates or inflames the nasal tissues such as:

  • Infections, such as the common cold and influenza
  • Allergies and various irritants
  • Some people have a chronically runny nose for no apparent reason — a condition called nonallergic rhinitis or vasomotor rhinitis (VMR).
  • Less commonly, runny nose can be caused by polyps, a foreign body, a tumor or migraine-like headaches.
  • Decongestant nasal spray overuse
  • Dry air
  • Cold air
  • Hormonal change
  • Lodged object
  • Medication
  • Pregnancy
  • Crying

Treatment:

A runny nose may be annoying and uncomfortable, but it usually clears up on its own. Occasionally, it can be a sign of a more serious problem, and runny nose may be serious in infants.

Call your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms last more than 10 days.
  • You have a high fever.
  • Your nasal discharge is yellow and green and is accompanied by sinus pain or fever. This may be a sign of a bacterial infection.
  • You have blood in your nasal discharge or a persistent clear discharge after a head injury.

Call your child’s doctor if:

  • Your child is younger than 2 months and is running a fever.
  • Your baby’s runny nose or congestion causes trouble nursing or makes breathing difficult.