Having a nose that won’t stop running is not only an annoyance but could indicate various medical conditions. Of course, having a runny nose is common when you are sick, exposed to extreme temperatures, or exercising but having a consistent runny nose is not normal.
A runny nose is a common symptom if you have a cold or virus but it’s not normal to have a runny nose constantly. Having a nose that won’t stop running may be a sign that you have something serious going on.
A runny nose is medically referred to as rhinorrhea or nasal congestion. It is when you have an excess amount of discharge from the nose. There could be several reasons why your nose won’t stop running. If you suffer from a constant runny nose you should seek medical care to try to determine the underlying cause.
Common Causes of a Runny Nose
There could be many causes of your chronic runny nose and that is why it is important to seek professional medical care. Not including acute illness, extreme temperatures, or exercise, your runny nose could be caused by:
- Allergies are very common and often seasonal. When you have allergies your body is reacting to an allergen that it does not like. Common allergens are pollen, certain types of food, dander, molds, dust, and some types of materials. The severity of your allergies is unique and individualized. Allergies cannot be cured but there are many over-the-counter and prescription medications to help relieve symptoms.
- Chronic Sinusitis is when your sinuses are inflamed for a prolonged time which causes issues with mucus drainage. This can cause a constant runny nose.
- Nonallergic Rhinitis causes allergy symptoms such as nasal congestion and sneezing but no allergen cause can be identified as causing the symptoms.
- Dry air can cause your nasal cavity to become irritated and cause a runny nose. This is most likely to be caused during certain times of the year and will depend on the type of climate you live in. This can be fixed with a humidifier which puts more moisture into the air of your home.
- Medications could be causing your constant runny nose. Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), beta-blockers for high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction prescriptions, sedatives, birth control, antidepressants, and nasal sprays could be causing your nasal congestion. NSAIDs are a class of medications that are commonly used for over-the-counter pain relief such as aspirin and ibuprofen. The overuse of nasal sprays can cause nasal drainage. Review your medications with your healthcare provider to see if any of them could be causing your constant runny nose.
- Hormonal changes can be caused by various types of conditions including but not limited to thyroid issues, diabetes, pregnancy, menstruation, metabolic issues, and medications. The shift in hormones may cause your runny nose.
- Nasal Polyps are growths that can form in your nose or sinuses. They are caused by inflammation and if they grow large, can disrupt the normal passage of air and mucus through the nose.
- Deviated Septum is when the “wall” between your nasal passages known as your nasal septum is not straight. It is crooked and causes one of your nasal passages to be smaller than the other. Depending on the severity of the deviation, it could block the normal passage of air and mucus. This condition usually requires surgical intervention to correct it.
- Occupational hazards could be causing your constant runny nose. Inhaling chemicals, dust, mold, toxins, or other various substances while you are working could negatively affect your health.
- Cerebrospinal fluid leaking is not common but could cause a constant runny nose. Cerebrospinal fluid is a clear liquid that is stored in your body around your brain and spinal cord. Cerebrospinal fluid is clear and could be mistaken for nasal mucous. The cerebrospinal fluid could leak from your brain if you have had a recent trauma such as a fall, car accident, or surgery. This is a very serious condition and needs emergency medical care immediately. People with cerebrospinal fluid leaking may also experience symptoms of headache, vision changes, nausea, vomiting, salty taste in the mouth, and stiff neck.
What Does it Mean When Your Nose Won’t Stop Running?
If your nose won’t stop running for 4 weeks and you do not have an acute illness you should consider seeking medical care. It could be caused by something common such as allergies or it could indicate a more serious health condition. It is difficult to determine what your runny nose means without seeking a medical assessment.
What Do You Do if Your Nose Won’t Stop Running?
If your nose won’t stop running you should make an appointment with your primary healthcare provider. They will be able to assess you, order any needed testing, discuss the issue with you, and come up with a plan of care. They may refer you to a specialist if they cannot determine what is causing your runny nose. An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor or an allergist may be needed for further assessment. The good news is that you can try home remedies or over-the-counter treatments before you see a doctor.
A simple at-home remedy you can try to relieve your congestion is doing a nasal wash using saline solution. A nasal wash irrigates the nasal passages to remove excess mucus and any allergens you may have in your nasal passages. There are several methods to do a nasal rinse. A spray bottle, syringe, or Neti Pot can be used. You can make saline at home using water and non-iodized salt. You wash the nasal passages out by squirting saline into one of your nostrils then blowing your nose. Repeat this for the other nostril. If this seems to help your runny nose, you can do this a few times a day.
You can try over-the-counter antihistamines if you believe your runny nose may be caused by allergies. Some common antihistamines include Claritin and Zyrtec. Please follow the directions on the bottle and make sure you do not have any medical conditions that would contraindicate the use of these medications before starting them. You can speak with your doctor or a pharmacist if you are unsure and need to be advised.
Using a nasal spray such as Flonase and Nasacort is also an option to help relieve a runny nose caused by allergies. Be aware that you should follow the directions on the bottle. If you use a nasal spray too much it could make your runny nose worse.
If your runny nose may be caused by dry air in your home or the climate that you live in a humidifier could help. You can purchase a humidifier at many drug stores, home-good stores, or online. Make sure to keep the humidifier clean because if not cleaned properly it could build up mold and spread the mold into the air.
If you can pinpoint the allergens that cause your runny nose you can try to avoid them. If your allergies are severe or you are unable to identify them, seeing an allergist for testing may be helpful.
How Long Should a Runny Nose Last?
If your runny nose is caused by an acute illness it should last around a week. Everyone recovers at a different rate so this could vary from person to person. If your runny nose lasts longer than 4 weeks you should seek medical care.
What Medicine To Take When Your Nose Won’t Stop Running
The medicine that you take to relieve a runny nose will depend on the cause. If you have a cold you can use over-the-counter cold medications. If you have high blood pressure, kidney issues, or are pregnant you should check with your primary doctor about what types of over-the-counter medications you can take. If your runny nose is caused by allergies you can try over-the-counter antihistamines or nasal sprays. Please use these as directed and if you are unsure check with a pharmacist or your doctor.
Can a Constant Runny Nose Be Serious?
A constant runny nose could be serious depending on what underlying condition is causing it. If you have had a runny nose for more than 4 weeks please seek medical attention. Your primary care doctor is a good place to start to diagnose why you are having a constant runny nose. If you are having symptoms that indicate cerebrospinal fluid leaking you should seek emergency medical care immediately.
When To See a Doctor?
See a doctor if you have had a constant runny nose for at least 4 weeks. Seek medical attention sooner if you are having other symptoms such as fever, yellow/green mucus, or signs of an infection.
Get Help From An Online Doctor
Technology has now allowed patients to connect with healthcare providers quicker than ever before. Telehealth has grown tremendously in the last few years. At DrHouse you can connect with a board-certified clinician in as little as 15 minutes.
It will take some primary doctor’s offices days to get you in for an appointment. With DrHouse you could see an online doctor in less time than it takes you to cook a meal or take a shower. You won’t even have to leave your house. This will save you time and allow you to get quick treatment for your medical concerns.
- If you have had a runny nose for longer than 4 weeks you should seek medical care.
- A constant runny nose is not normal and could be caused by an underlying medical condition that has not been diagnosed.
- A constant runny nose could be serious depending on what underlying condition is causing the runny nose.
- You can try home remedies such as nasal washes or over-the-counter medications.
- Runny nose: Symptoms, causes & treatment. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2022, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/17660-runny-nose
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, March 16). Reach for relief from a runny nose. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved February 17, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/runny-nose/basics/causes/sym-20050640
DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.