A runny nose can be a symptom of a bacterial or viral infection, like a common cold, influenza or allergic reactions. The medicines that are most commonly used to alleviate this condition are nasal decongestants and antihistamines.
If a runny nose perturbs you no end, relaying you to the physician for a dose of antibiotics, here is one light-bulb moment! Colds stretching over two weeks shouldn’t get you deucedly anxious. Thick, yellowish-green mucus is your body’s mechanism to defenestrate the virus. Antibiotics, sure, is not the solution!
A runny nose, also known as rhinorrhea or rhinitis, refers to the production of a significant amount of nasal fluid or discharge. Though it causes a lot of trouble or inconvenience, it is actually a way by which our body tries to get rid of some toxic substances by flushing them out along with nasal fluid. However, the excess mucus produced to expel the harmful particles can sometimes cause the congestion of the nasal cavity.
Causes of Runny Nose
A runny nose can be caused by several factors, though most commonly it is a symptom of either a common cold or an allergy. If a common cold causes the runny nose condition, then it usually lasts for a few weeks, whereas, an allergy can cause this condition for a considerable length of time, sometimes lasting for more than a month.
- Allergies that can cause a runny nose include hay fever, food allergies, dust mite allergies, latex allergies, etc.
- Apart from a common cold, the non-allergic causes include viral or bacterial infections like influenza and sinusitis.
- Vasomotor rhinitis is another condition that can lead to a runny nose, mainly due to changes in the temperature and humidity, and also by a strong odor or perfume.
Most of the time, this condition does not require any treatment and medicine, as it subsides on its own. However, if the congestion caused by the excess mucus produced is really serious and causes breathing problems, then some specific medicines would be required to alleviate this condition.
Decongestants are the most commonly used medicines to relieve congestion. Both oral decongestants and nasal sprays can be used for this purpose. However, excessive use of nasal decongestant sprays can increase nasal stuffiness instead of relieving it. Examples of nasal decongestant sprays include oxymetazoline, phenylephrine, xylometazoline, and naphazoline. In short, nasal sprays are basically meant to be used only for a short time period, to get temporary relief.
If the condition is the result of allergic reactions, then antihistamine medications can be helpful. These allergy medications can inhibit the secretion or action of histamine — a chemical responsible for producing allergic reactions or symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, itching, etc. The commonly used antihistamine medications are diphenhydramine or loratadine. Drowsiness is a common side effect of antihistamine medicines. Moreover, they may not be very effective in easing a runny nose, if it is caused by a common cold, sinus infection, or non-allergic rhinitis.
Steroids have anti-inflammatory effects, for which they are used in treating allergic reactions like congestion and inflammation of the nose. Nasal steroids are often used in combination with antihistamine medications. Long-term use of steroids can produce side effects like nasal bleeding and nasal crusts, bone thinning, cataracts, and an increased susceptibility to infections.
A Few Dos
✔ Use a humidifier and take hot showers.
✔ Steam inhalation (with drops of menthol or eucalyptus oil) is effective.
✔ Drink herbal tea (with cayenne pepper, elderberry, mint and yarrow root) or chamomile tea.
✔ Have portions of chicken soup.
✔ Chew a small piece of ginger twice a day.
✔ Drink water and keep yourself well-hydrated.
✔ Dab some petroleum jelly or balm, if your nose is red and raw.
For allergic rhinitis, the best treatment would be to avoid the allergens, as far as possible. These allergens would be mostly individual-specific and vary from person to person. For some, they could be dust, pollen or mites, while for others it could be certain food items like milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, etc. Therefore, identification of the specific allergen is quite important to avoid its exposure, and hence a runny nose. As far as the medicines are concerned, it is advisable to consult your physician to know about their various aspects and how to use them effectively.
Disclaimer: This article is purely for informative and educational purposes. Please seek the advice of a registered medical practitioner before consuming any of the above medicines mentioned here.