Runny nose – causes, treatment

Runny nose

Everyone is familiar with the side effect of a cold : the runny nose . When the infection has subsided, the olfactory organ usually calms down again. But many people also suffer from a chronic runny nose. There are many causes and reasons for this, and there are a number of things you can do to prevent the annoying runny nose.

What is a runny nose?

A runny nose is the discharge of secretions from the nose and paranasal sinuses. The secretion is often produced by inflammation in these areas.

In the case of severe or long-lasting inflammatory reactions, the nasal mucous membranes swell and secretion production increases. An acute infection is usually accompanied by a runny nose.

From clear liquid to yellow-greenish mucus to dark crusts, the discharge from a runny nose can have a wide variety of appearances, depending on the cause.


The appearance and texture of the nasal discharge can tell you something about the cause of the runny nose. A bacterial infection produces yellow-green, thick secretion ( pus ).

If, on the other hand, the liquid is thin, whitish or colorless, this indicates an acute onset of a common cold caused by viruses . If you have a permanent runny nose with clear liquid, this is often a consequence and side effect of an allergy .

In response to an irritant, the nasal mucosa then constantly produces secretions. If the allergic stimulus, which in addition to dust, pollen or harmful substances in the air can also be incompatible foods, is not eliminated, the runny nose becomes chronic.

diseases with this symptom

Diagnosis & History

Diagnosing a runny nose as a side effect of a bacterial or viral infection is relatively easy when other symptoms of a cold or flu also occur.

In the case of stubborn infections in the ear, nose and throat area, which are noticeable, among other things, by a runny nose with yellow-green secretion, a bacterial superinfection, ie an additional bacterial infestation on inflamed tissue, can be detected by a swab of the mucous membrane. The treatment is then adjusted accordingly.

Identifying an allergy as the cause of a runny nose is a bit more difficult because there are many possible allergy-causing substances. The doctor will do an allergy test if there is any suspicion . If the result is positive, it is then a demanding task for the doctor and the patient to relieve the symptoms with the right treatment and physical strengthening measures and to calm the runny nose.


A runny nose is usually a symptom of a simple cold, which heals without complications. In the worst cases, the common cold can spread and further infect the sinuses and middle ear. In addition, these normally viral infections can be secondarily infected by bacteria, resulting in superinfection , which is more complicated to treat.

Wegener’s disease can also be the cause of a chronic runny nose. This is an autoimmune disease of the vessels. About 50 percent die within a year as a result of this disease if it is not adequately treated with immunosuppression. The disease spreads over the entire organism and primarily affects the ear, kidneys and eyes.

It comes to hearing loss , which can lead to deafness , poor eyesight, which can end in blindness , and kidney weakness (renal insufficiency). If the disease affects the kidneys, any therapy is usually too late, life expectancy is less than 6 months. In addition, a runny nose can also occur as allergic rhinitis in the context of an allergy.

Complications that can arise are, for example, inflammation of the paranasal sinuses, as well as effusions in the middle ear and timpani, which lead to hearing loss. In the rarest cases, an allergen can trigger an allergic shock . The affected person experiences a sharp drop in blood pressure and an increase in heart rate. There is also shortness of breath. In the event of shock, an ambulance should be consulted immediately, as this is a life-threatening emergency.

When should you go to the doctor?

At first glance, a runny nose is not a worrying clinical picture that needs to be examined by a doctor. However, a cold should subside within a week. Before the person affected with a runny nose consults a doctor, the medicine cabinet can of course be used first. Nasal sprays, cold ointments or inhaling anti-inflammatory agents are effective remedies for a runny nose.

If all of these measures do not bring about an improvement, then going to a doctor is inevitable. Anyone who completely foregoes a doctor or the taking of appropriate medication at this point must expect a significant worsening of the individual symptoms. However, if the person concerned is looking for a doctor, it should be the general practitioner for the time being . A family doctor can prescribe appropriate medication for such cold symptoms, which can achieve a significant improvement in well-being within a short time.

In general, a family doctor can treat a runny nose effectively with the right medication. Before that, of course, you can fight a runny nose with your own home remedies. However, if there is no improvement after a few days, a doctor should definitely be consulted. This is the only way to avoid serious complications at an early stage.

Treatment & Therapy

The runny nose as a side effect of a simple infection is a self-healing and cleansing measure of the body. Therefore, the secretions from the nose should not be suppressed. Immune-boosting measures, rest, a healthy diet, plenty of fluids (water) and regular nose baths usually ensure that the infection has an uncomplicated and predictable course, and when it subsides, the runny nose also disappears.

If bacterial superinfection is causing the runny nose, the doctor will most likely prescribe antibiotics . In the case of a bacterial infection, this treatment is usually the only way to permanently eliminate the inflammation and thus also the runny nose. It is also very important as bacterial infections can become dangerous.

A runny nose as a result of an allergic reaction is more difficult and has a less favorable prognosis. It depends very much on the stamina and consistent behavior of the patient whether the allergen can be permanently switched off and the problem of a runny nose can be eliminated.

However, since not all allergy-triggering irritants can always be banished from everyday life without further ado, the prognosis for a complete cure of the runny nose is rather unfavorable.

Outlook & Forecast

A runny nose is caused by irritation of the nasal mucosa or by a bacterial infection . As a result, this clinical picture can take different courses, which in some cases should be treated by a doctor.

Typically, a runny nose should go away on its own within a week. Affected people get very bad air at night and sores appear on their noses. There is also a purulent discharge from the nose, which can vary depending on the severity of the infection.

In some cases, however, a runny nose does not heal within a week, and instead becomes a more severe infection. The nasal mucous membranes are affected at such a moment. They can become very crusted and inflamed. In such a case, the affected person can hardly breathe, so that this clinical picture should be treated with medication.

Unless the cause of a runny nose is an infection, allergies are the culprit in many cases. For example, if you suffer from hay fever , you may have a runny nose all year round. In such a case, improvement can only be achieved with the help of medication.


There are a few simple and effective ways to prevent a runny nose. A healthy diet, plenty of fluids and fresh air support the whole body and, above all, the immune system, which is directly related to the mucous membranes in the nose and sinuses.

Special nose baths with warm water and the addition of sea salt moisten and strengthen the nasal mucous membranes.

In addition, the use of herbal, essential oils can have a decongestant effect and protect the mucous membranes. If you have a runny nose, you should avoid dust, synthetic fragrances and too many household chemicals.

You can do that yourself

When it comes to a runny nose, there are quite a number of self-help remedies that are used. A visit to the doctor is therefore only necessary in rare cases. As a rule, it is sufficient to repeatedly wipe the runny nose with a handkerchief or to blow one’s nose. This frees the nose and the secretion can escape from the nose. In the pharmacy there are various nasal sprays that can stop the runny nose. These also clear the nose of congestion and other blockages.

Ideally, the nose can be rinsed with salt water . Simply mix water with salt and then spray it into your nose. The salt water frees the nose from congestion and thus stops the runny nose. Inhalation sticks can also be used to prevent a runny nose . These are often soaked with a certain oil, which uses the smell to clear the blockages in the nose and thus ensures a clear nose. Ginger and garlic also help against a runny nose. These can be used in tea or soups, for example. If you have the flu or a cold, a healthy diet is very helpful to quickly combat a runny nose.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.