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Nose run when cold: Quick Dose: Why Does the Cold Weather Make My Nose Run?

Why does your nose run when it’s cold? – Faculty of Medicine


Even if you’re not sick, your nose runs when it’s cold. Why? from www.shutterstock.com

David King, The University of Queensland

This is an article from I’ve Always Wondered, a new series where readers send in questions they’d like an expert to answer. Send your question to [email protected]

Why does your nose run when it’s cold? It seems counterintuitive – Sonja Dominik

About 50-90% of people get a runny nose when it’s cold. We call this “cold-induced rhinitis”, or “skier nose”. People with asthma, eczema and hay fever seem to experience it more.

It’s the job of your nose to make the air you breathe in warm and wet so that when it gets to your lungs it does not irritate the cells. When inhaling air through the nose at subfreezing temperatures, the air in the back of the nose is usually about 26°C, but can be as high as 30°C. And the humidity of air at the back of the nose is usually around 100%, irrespective of how cold the air is we’re breathing in.

This shows the nose is very effective at making sure the air we breath becomes warm and wet before it reaches the lungs.

Read more – Health Check: what’s the right way to blow your nose?

So how does it do this? Cold, dry air stimulates the nerves inside your nose, which send a message through your nerves to your brain. Your brain then responds to this impulse by increasing the blood flow to the nose, and these dilated blood vessels warm the air passing over them. Secondly, the nose is triggered to produce more secretions via the mucous glands in order to provide the moisture to humidify the air coming through.

Treatment is usually just to carry a hanky or tissue! from www.shutterstock.com

The cold, dry air also stimulates cells of your immune system (called “mast cells”) in your nose. These cells trigger the production of more liquid in your nose to make the air more moist. It’s estimated you can lose up to 300-400mL of fluid daily through your nose as it performs this function.

Heat and water loss are closely related: heating the air in the nasal cavities means the lining of the nasal cavity (mucosa) becomes cooler than core body temperature; at the same time, water evaporates (becomes vapour) to make the air moist. Water evaporation, which requires large amounts of heat, takes heat from the nose, thus making it cooler.

In response, the blood flow to the nose increases further, as the task of warming the air that’s breathed in takes precedence over heat loss from the nose (the body’s normal response to cold is to shunt blood away from the surface to the deep vessels to minimise heat loss from the skin). So it’s a difficult balancing act to achieve the correct amount of heat and moisture lost from the nose.

Read more – I’ve always wondered: why is the flu virus so much worse than the common cold virus?

When the compensatory mechanism is a little too overactive, moisture in excess of that needed to humidify this cold, dry air will drip from the nostrils. Mast cells are usually more sensitive in people with asthma and allergies, and blood vessel changes more reactive in those who are sensitive to environmental irritants and temperature changes. So nasal congestion and even sneezing can be triggered by the cold air.

Treatment is usually simply to carry some tissues or a handkerchief. Although the use of anticholinergic (blocks nerve impulses) and anti-inflammatory nasal sprays such as Atropine and Ipratropium have been trialled with some success.

Medical student Caitlin Saunders also contributed to this article.

David King, Senior Lecturer, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Is the cold weather causing your runny nose?


  • Health and Wellness
  • Allergy
  • Ear Nose and Throat


In some parts of the country, temperatures have plummeted and old man winter has dumped mounds of snow and ice on the ground.

For some otherwise healthy people, simply spending time outside in the cold can bring on nasal congestion and a runny nose. 

The culprit behind these symptoms could be cold-induced rhinitis or skier nose.


How the nose functions

The nose is one of the first portals of our upper respiratory tract. Its job is to warm, filter and clean the air preparing it for the lungs. Regardless of the air temperature, the relative humidity in the back of the nose is around 100 percent and the average temperature is 78 to 86 degrees.


How the nose responds to cold air

When cold air enters the nose, it stimulates the sensory nerves within the nasal cavity to activate a process via a cholinergic reflex or pathway. It causes the vessels in the nasal cavity to expand and become engorged, leading to congestion and mucus secretion which produces a runny nose. It’s a compensatory mechanism that’s trying to maintain ideal conditions inside the nose by adding humidity and warmth while filtering the air.


Are some people more sensitive to changes in air temperature?

Our bodies are designed to acclimate to changes in air temperature. Some people are predisposed to being more sensitive to this reflex and may have stronger reactions. 


Can you prevent cold-induced rhinitis?

The body is designed to do this for a reason, but if it becomes a nuisance, you can curtail the cholinergic pathway by taking a prescription anti-cholinergic medication called ipratropium bromide. It would substantially decrease the mucus secretion, improving your runny nose.


How can I determine if I have cold-induced rhinitis?

There are multiple things that can cause congestion and a runny nose – the cold weather, allergens, irritants, some perfumes, even spicy foods. Since there are so many things that can cause your nose to run, it’s important to see your doctor to figure out what’s behind your symptoms and to determine what treatment, if any, is needed.


Dr. Alexander Farag is a head and neck surgeon and rhinologist in the department of otolaryngology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.


Visit Ohio State Health & Discovery for more stories on health, wellness, innovation, research and science news from the experts at Ohio State.

Check out health.osu.edu

Runny nose: all about infectious rhinitis

Autumn is the time of colds and weakening of the immune system. A mild runny nose does not seem to be a reason for attention, however, in this article we will talk about why it is important to treat a runny nose even in mild forms of manifestation, and why vasoconstrictor drops become addictive.

Runny nose is…

In medicine, a runny nose is known as rhinitis, and is manifested by inflammation of the nasal mucosa. This is one of the most common diseases, which in mild forms is not considered serious. However, a runny nose often significantly reduces the quality of life. The main symptoms of an upcoming runny nose are: discharge from the nose, difficulty in nasal breathing, itching in the nasal cavity and frequent sneezing.

A runny nose in a person manifests itself for various reasons, which can be divided into three main groups:

Causes of infectious rhinitis

The most common cause of infectious rhinitis is a respiratory viral infection that enters the body through contact with a sick person. Other external factors, such as hypothermia, can also provoke a runny nose.

Stages of rhinitis

A runny nose, like any other disease, develops gradually, knowing the symptoms and differences in each stage of the course of the disease can prevent its further growth.

  • Irritation and dryness. The first symptoms of a developing runny nose are burning, tickling, irritation in the nasal cavity and frequent sneezing. In parallel, general malaise, headache, fever and decreased appetite may develop. The condition lasts up to 2 days, and the nasal mucosa gradually turns red, becomes dry, the nasal passages narrow.
  • Serous discharge. The first stage flows into the second, the appearance of which can be seen by such signs as the appearance of a significant amount of liquid mucous secretions, difficulty in nasal breathing, loss of smell and taste. Edema of the nasal mucosa still continues to develop, lacrimation, tinnitus join the symptoms.
  • Mucopurulent discharge. The last stage of rhinitis, which begins 4-5 days after the onset of the disease. Nasal discharge changes from greyish to yellow and may take on a greenish tint. At this stage of the disease, it is important not to stop treatment, since the neglect of the disease can lead to the development of more serious diseases, such as sinusitis or sinusitis.

In the case of successful treatment, rhinitis recedes and the amount of fluid released from the nose gradually decreases. The mucosal edema subsides, the sense of smell is restored, nasal breathing returns to normal, and complete recovery occurs.

How to treat a runny nose?

Contrary to the common misconception that a runny nose goes away on its own, it is necessary to treat it in order to alleviate the patient’s condition and prevent the development of a secondary bacterial infection. Due to swelling and accumulation of mucus in the nasal cavity with a runny nose, the ventilation of the paranasal sinuses is disturbed, and this creates conditions for the rapid reproduction of pathogenic microorganisms.

With medication

For the medical treatment of infectious rhinitis, there are a huge number of different nasal sprays for different patient ages, stages of the disease and diagnosis.

Drugs that can moisturize and soften the mucous membrane are considered effective. Most often they are sea water or oil based.

Most of the group of nasal medicines are fast-acting drugs to facilitate nasal breathing – vasoconstrictor drops and sprays. However, such a simple way to restore nasal breathing can lead to the most unpleasant consequences. Thus, long-term use of vasoconstrictor drugs is associated with the risk of addiction. People who use vasoconstrictor drops on an ongoing basis gradually get used to the drug, because of which it ceases to bring the desired result. The dose must constantly be increased, which subsequently leads to dryness, burning, increased bleeding of the nasal mucosa. What does addiction to vasoconstrictors lead to, we wrote in the article “Dependence on drops”.

Comprehensive measures

To alleviate the general condition with a runny nose, it is necessary to drink plenty of fluids, maintain a cool temperature in the room, and rinse the sinuses with saline isotonic solutions. Washing helps to reduce the concentration of pathogens on the mucous membrane, remove mucus and restore the work of the ciliated epithelium lining the nasal cavity. Saline solutions are close in composition to physiological ones, they moisturize the nasal mucosa, wash out secretions, and normalize the functioning of epithelial cells. You need to drip them into your nose 4-6 times a day.

When to see a doctor

You can cope with a runny nose without medical help, however, you should not let the course of the disease take its course. You should seek medical help if:

  • runny nose does not go away within a week, the temperature rises again, nasal congestion, chills and weakness appear;
  • developed ear pain or discharge from the ears;
  • discharge with streaks of blood began to come out of the nose.

Runny nose: causes, first aid, treatment


Articles and publications

All about rhinitis

How to stop a runny nose

Author of the article:
Dina Maratovna

Doctor, mother and chief editor



  1. Why snot flows in a stream
  2. First aid for nasal discharge
  3. Treatment of the common cold

Profuse nasal flow is a problem that adults and children face as a result of rhinorrhea. Snot begins to literally flow in a stream due to an increase in the content of irritating substances in the mucus that affect the nasal cavity. The mucous membrane becomes inflamed and swells, breathing becomes difficult. It is important to know the causes of a severe runny nose and ways to stop a runny nose at home.

Why snot flows like a stream

Abundant flow from the nose can occur if the patient has:

  • colds;
  • inflammatory processes in the tissues of the ENT organs;
  • allergic reactions;
  • exposure to chemical and other irritants;
  • dry mucosa;
  • entry into the nasal cavity of a foreign body.

Cold air is a provocative factor in the abundant discharge of mucus from the nose. A common reason why the nose flows quickly is the flu and SARS. In addition to the common cold, these diseases are usually accompanied by cough, nasal congestion, and high fever. If pathogenic microorganisms penetrate into other parts of the respiratory tract, sinusitis and other inflammatory diseases may develop. In the acute stage, they are accompanied by mucus purulent discharge, headache, fever, a feeling of fullness in the eye sockets and forehead. If the discharge from the nose does not go away within 7 days, it acquires an unpleasant odor, additional symptoms appear, it is imperative to contact an ENT doctor to identify the cause of the problem and prescribe therapy. Otherwise, the disease can become chronic or give complications.

In some cases, profuse nasal discharge is an important sign that swelling of the nasal mucosa is subsiding under the influence of nasal congestion medications. Swelling must be removed as quickly as possible so that mucus does not accumulate in the sinuses. For this, “Sialor Reno” is prescribed in different dosages for children and adults, as well as other vasoconstrictors. With excessive use of drugs in this group, the susceptibility of mucosal receptors is disturbed, drug dependence or drug rhinitis occurs. In this case, it is important to eliminate addiction and use means for recovery.

Another reason for heavy nasal discharge is hay fever or pollen allergy. If the nose is flowing and sneezing has appeared, the patient will need the help of an allergist-immunologist who will prescribe an examination to determine the allergen and select drugs.

When dust, chemical and other irritants get into the nasal passages, sneezing and flow from the nose also appear. Allocations contribute to the speedy cleansing of the mucous membrane from foreign substances.

In the autumn-winter period, transparent discharge with a sharp change in temperature is a natural reaction of mucosal receptors to cold air. As a rule, as you get used to temperature changes, a runny nose goes away on its own.

First aid for nasal discharge

Ways to stop a runny nose depend on the cause of its occurrence. There are general recommendations, thanks to which you can alleviate your condition:

  • Rinse your nose daily with solutions based on purified sea water.
  • Use drugs prescribed by a doctor, do not self-medicate.
  • Monitor the humidity in the room, use humidifiers or place an open container of water in the room.
  • To stop the flow of the nose with a cold, you need a comprehensive treatment, which includes taking medications, washing the nose, inhalation, drinking plenty of water.

Treatment of the common cold

You can find a way to stop copious discharge from the nose with a runny nose when the factor that provokes the condition is known for sure. If a patient has a suspicion of sinusitis, it is imperative to identify the causative agent of the disease and take antibacterial or antiviral drugs prescribed by the doctor.

If an adult or a child has a runny nose due to a pollen allergy, the easiest way to stop a runny nose is to isolate from the allergen – plants during their flowering period. You may also need to take antihistamines. In severe or persistent forms of allergic rhinitis, intranasal glucocorticosteroids are indicated.