A runny nose can be extremely annoying and is usually a common part of the cold cycle. Children tend to suffer more from runny noses than adults do; at least 8-12 times a year. In adults, a runny nose could accompany a viral or bacterial infection or a seasonal allergy. Runny nose is generally harmless but it could sometimes lead to other infections including ear infections, sinusitis etc.
What causes runny nose?
- Runny nose, as stated above, is usually caused by a common cold. It may be accompanied by chills, aches or fever. This type of runny nose usually gets better by itself and you do not need to take any special medicine to get rid of it. The mucus discharge may be yellowish or greenish in color or even plain watery. As the virus progresses, the mucus could change color. Green colored mucus does not necessarily signify an infection. However, if you are running a fever of more than 100 F (or 39 C) or also having a harsh cough, then it is best to see a doctor to get a prescription for antibiotics.
- Allergies can also lead to runny noses. They are accompanied by other symptoms like itchy eyes, nasal congestion, sneezing, or asthma. This kind of runny nose can last for weeks, even months.
- Excess crying can also give rise to running nose, which is cured once the tears stop.
In majority of the cases, a runny nose is an indication of the body regulating itself to adjust to certain medication, external environment, stress, even spicy food!
How to stop a runny nose quickly?
Sometimes, the best treatment for runny nose is to let it run its course. The mucus that comes out of the nose helps discharge the viruses and bacteria causing the infection. If you are having trouble breathing or sleeping, you can blow out your nose or try one of the following remedies.
1. Saline or salt water rinse
A warm salt water rinse is one of the best and fastest ways to clear out runny noses. Rinsing out the sinuses with salt water can help you get rid of seasonal allergies.
How to: Mix one cup of clean filtered water with a teaspoon of natural sea salt. Pour a few drops in the nose. You can also use a Neti pot to rinse out the sinuses with the saline water. Let the water go in one nostril and come out of the other.
2. Breast milk- the best remedy for runny nose in babies
In very young infants who are still nursing, this remedy works wonderfully to clear out blocked noses and stop the watery nasal discharge.
How to: Simple squeeze in some breast milk in the infants nose to break up the mucus. Wait for a few seconds then encourage the child to blow out the nose or use a bulb syringe to suction out the mucous.
3. Fenugreek tea
Fenugreek tea is an excellent herbal remedy that can help break down the mucus and also clear up the sinuses.
How to: To make the tea, add 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds or powder to 1 cup of water. Boil the mixture and let it steep for 10 minutes. Fenugreek has a bitter taste, so add some honey and lemon to this tea to make it palatable. This remedy must be avoided by pregnant women or children under the age of 2 years.
4. Aromatic essential oil remedies
This is a wonderful natural remedy to clear up congestion and nasal discharge in children and adults. Aromatic essential oils are very strong, so use them in a diffuser. You can use any oil like rosemary, camphor, menthol, eucalyptus or peppermint oils. They all help clear out blocked, runny noses.
How to: Add 2-3 drops of your favorite oil in the diffuser or humidifier and run it in your bedroom at night. For very severe colds, mix the oil with 2 teaspoons of coconut oil and apply it to your feet. You could also suck on menthol lozenges or apply a menthol chest rub on the chest, back, nose, forehead and feet. You can apply a few drops of aromatic oils on a tissue paper and inhale it every now and then.
5. Increase your fluid intake
The best way to clear out the mucus and stop runny nose quickly is to drink copious amounts of fluids. This will loosen the mucus up and eliminate it out through urine.
How to: Apart from drinking 8-10 glasses of plain water, also drink herbal tea, freshly made fruit/vegetable juices, clear soups and stews etc. Drink plenty of hot beverages to loosen the mucus up and get instant relief from runny or blocked nose.
6. Steam inhalation
Steam inhalation is one of the oldest and best folk remedies to relieve stuffy, runny and severely congested noses.
How to: Boil water in a steam inhaler. Position your head carefully over the steamer and cover it with a towel. Inhale the steam for at least 10 minutes. You can make this remedy even more potent by adding a few drops of essential oils to the water (eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil or camphor oil work best.) You can also add a teaspoon of Vicks Vaporub® to the steamer and inhale the vapors arising to relieve the nasal discharge quickly.
7. Decongestant sprays
Many good quality nasal decongestant sprays are available in the market, using which you can relieve all kinds of upper respiratory symptoms.
How to: Cover one nostril and spray in the other nostril. Cover that one and spray in the other nostril. In case of seasonal allergies, you might want to try steroidal nasal sprays. However, avoid using them for more than two days as they can get absorbed by the body and cause thinning of the mucosa.
8. Take antihistamine
Antihistamines can help relieve severe runny nose and/or nasal congestion. They are particularly recommended for people suffering from seasonal allergies.
How to: Your doctor will prescribe antihistamine medicine. Many over-the-counter antihistamines can also give you much needed relief. Note that many of these medicines can cause drowsiness. So, avoid driving or operating machinery when using them.
9. Reduce allergens in your environment
Dust, smoke, pollen etc are the main allergens that can give rise to runny nose. Try and reduce your exposure to them.
How to: Venture outdoors in late afternoon instead of early morning when smoke, mold and pollen are higher. You can also invest in good air filters to reduce dust inside your home. Vacuum the house and clean all surfaces to reduce your indoor exposure to allergens.
10. Clean and launder using eucalyptus oil
A study conducted in Australia showed that laundering linen, blankets and bed sheets with eucalyptus oil helped reduce the percentage of dust mites by nearly 95%.
How to: Mix one part liquid dishwashing detergent with 5-6 drops of eucalyptus oil, ½ cup white vinegar and 1 cup hot water. Fill this up in a spray bottle. Use the spray all over your linen, bedding, furniture etc to reduce allergens.
When to see a doctor?
If your runny nose symptoms last for more than week, the mucous color changes or you develop some other symptoms like pain in the ears, skin rash etc then it is time to see a doctor. You might need antibiotics to get rid of the infection.