Runny nose

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Definition

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.

The terms “rhinorrhea” and “rhinitis” are often used to refer to a runny nose. Strictly speaking though, rhinorrhea refers to a thin, relatively clear nasal discharge. Rhinitis refers to inflammation of the nasal tissues from a number of causes, which usually results in a runny nose.

Nasal congestion may or may not accompany runny nose.

Causes

Runny nose can be caused by anything that irritates or inflames the nasal tissues. Infections such as the common cold and influenza allergies and various irritants may all cause a runny nose. 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.

Causes of runny nose include:

  • Acute sinusitis
  • Allergies
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Churg-Strauss syndrome
  • Common cold
  • Decongestant nasal spray overuse
  • Deviated septum
  • Drug addiction
  • Dry air
  • Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s granulomatosis)
  • Hormonal changes
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Lodged object
  • Medications
  • Nasal polyps
  • Nonallergic rhinitis
  • Occupational asthma
  • Pregnancy
  • Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
  • Spinal fluid leak
  • Tobacco smoke

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