Why do I have a runny nose?
Excessive nasal secretions help eliminate viruses from the nose and sinuses. After 2-3 days, the body’s immune cells react and change the color of secretions in white or yellow. Bacteria that normally live in the nasal mucosa can be found in nasal secretions, which in this case will be greenish. This is normal and you do not need systemic antibiotics. Often, excess mucus can be removed through your pharynx more during the night, causing coughing and dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing).
Why is my nose stuffy?
The nose is not clogged due to excess mucus with high viscosity. Congestion is due to thickening of the membrane lining inside of the respiratory tract – nose to the lungs – due to inflammation and dilation of blood vessels. Stuffy nose (nasal congestion) and rhinorrhea (runny nose) basically have the same causes.
Sneezing is caused by irritation of the membrane lining of the inner nose and throat, and can be very annoying, but it is not a sign of gravity.
- A cold – is the most common cause (it’s usually caused by viruses) and nasal secretions are colorless, yellow or green in color if they may indicate a bacterial overgrowth.
- Sinusitis (nasal secretions may be more viscous, colorless, yellow, brown or green)
- Allergic rhinitis (nasal secretions are usually clear and watery, associated with nasal and ocular itching and irritation, sneezing, coughing)
- Inhalation of small objects (especially in children)
Associated symptoms include fever, headaches and muscle pain.
What can be done at home
Fluidisation of nasal secretions try to prevent complications such as ear and sinus infections by:
- Inhaling warm air over a steamy pot.
- Using saline nasal sprays
- Drinking lots of fluids (water or juice)
- Regularly blowing your nose
- Washing your hands very often to limit the spread of germs, teaching your children to wash their hands
- Hot foot baths
Medications can help reduce symptoms. However, some of them may have unwanted side effects, thus they should only be given by the physician or pharmacist. The common cold treatment goals are to reduce symptoms and prevent complications.
- Local anti-inflammatories reduce inflammation which is responsible for symptoms. Local antibiotics may be associated to prevent secondary bacterial infections.
- Local antiseptics may contribute to the eradication of viruses
- Systemic antibiotics rush the cure of a cold, can even be responsible for side effects (allergy, gastro-intestinal disorders) and selection of resistant strains. They should be used only in the case of bacterial complications: bacterial sinusitis or otitis media.
- Nasal decongestants may be used but are contraindicated in children and in people with associated diseases. They can also give rebound rhinorrhea (increased nasal secretion). They should not be used for more than three days. Pharmacist and doctor’s advice should be always taken into account.
- Antihistamines help reduce nasal secretions and sneezing caused by allergys, but in some cases you may need steroids.
- Antitussives (in case of dry cough) or Expectorants (in case of productive cough) may also be very useful.
- Antipyretics ( they reduce fever) , and painkillers help relieve general symptoms like fever and mialgias (muscle pain)