Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Stuffy nose is a term often used to refer to obstruction to the flow of air in and out of the nose, while runny nose refers to a discharge (fluid) coming from the nasal passages. This is often a watery, clear liquid but may be thicker and viscous. Both stuffy and runny nose are associated with inflammation and swelling (congestion) of the inner lining of the nasal passages and sinuses. Rhinitis is a term that refers to inflammation of the nasal passages, and rhinorrhea is the medical term for runny nose. A viral infection (the common cold) is the most common cause of a stuffy and/or runny nose, but allergies, influenza, other viral infections like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and sinus infections also may cause these symptoms and signs. Postnasal drip may be an associated symptom. This occurs when there is excess production of mucus by the lining cells of the nose, which accumulates in the back of the nose or in the throat.
Less commonly, anatomical obstructions (for example, a deviated nasal septum or foreign bodies) may lead to nasal congestion. Other causes of a stuffy or runny nose include environmental factors, like consumption of spicy foods or smoke exposure, hormonal changes, and some medications. Rarely, tumors of the nasal passages or chronic medical conditions may be the cause of a stuffy or runny nose.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.
Causes of Runny Nose
Adenovirus infection, particularly Ad14, or the "killer cold virus" has been on the increase in the past two years. Symptoms...
An allergy refers to a misguided reaction by our immune system in response to bodily contact with certain foreign substances. ...
Chronic Rhinitis and Post-Nasal Drip
Chronic rhinitis and post-nasal drip symptoms include: An itchy, runny nose Sneezing Itchy ears, eyes, and...
The term cluster headache is a type of headache that recurs over a period of time. There are episodes that last one to three...
Cold vs. Flu
Though the common cold and flu share many signs and symptoms, they are caused by different viruses. Signs and symptoms include...
The common cold (viral upper respiratory tract infection) is a contagious illness that may be caused by various viruses. Symptoms...
A deviate septum is a condition that may require surgery. With a deviated septum, the bone and cartilage that divide the nasal...
Influenza (flu) is a respiratory illness caused by a virus. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache,...
The most common food allergies are to eggs, nuts, milk, peanuts, fish, shellfish, strawberries and tomatoes. Symptoms and signs...
Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)
Hay fever (allergic rhinitis) is an irritation of the nose caused by pollen and is associated with the following allergic...
Indoor allergens are substances that can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Common sources of indoor allergens include...
Measles (rubeola) is a highly contagious disease that's caused by a virus. Symptoms include a rash, high fever, cough, runny...
Mold exposure may cause symptoms in people who are sensitive to molds. Symptoms of mold allergy include sneezing, runny nose,...
Occupational asthma is a type of asthma caused by exposure to a substance in the workplace. Symptoms and signs include wheezing,...
Respiratory Syncytial Virus
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a highly contagious viral infection. Symptoms include fever and nasal congestion and...
Roseola is a viral illness that most commonly affects young children. Symptoms and signs include a sudden high fever that lasts...
Sinus Infection (Sinusitis)
Sinus infection (sinusitis) is caused by allergies, infection, and chemicals or other irritants of sinuses. Signs and symptoms...
Smoking (How to Quit Smoking)
Smoking is an addiction. More than 430,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. from smoking related illnesses. Secondhand smoke or...
Novel H1N1 influenza A virus infection (swine flu) is an infection that generally is transferred from an infected pig to a human,...
Teen Drug Abuse
Drugs commonly abused by teens include tobacco products, marijuana, cold medications, inhalants, depressants, stimulants,...
Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
Whooping cough (pertussis) is highly contagious respiratory infection that is caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis. There...
Other Causes of Runny Nose
- Cold Weather or Sudden Temperature Changes
- Consumption of Spicy Foods
- Enlarged Adenoids
- Environmental Irritants
- Foreign Bodies in the Nose
- Hormonal Changes
- Injury/Trauma to the Nose
- Kartagener Syndrome
- Nasal Polyps
- Structural Abnormalities
- Tumors of the Nasal Passages
- Vasomotor Rhinitis
- Viral Infection
Examples of Medications for Runny Nose
- beclomethasone dipropionate inhaler/spray; Beconase AQ, QNASL
- cetirizine, Zyrtec, Zyrtec Allergy, Zyrtec Hives
- chlorpheniramine, pseudoephedrine, Deconamine (Discontinued)
- diphenhydramine, Benadryl
- fexofenadine and pseudoephedrine, Allegra-D
- fexofenadine, Allegra, Allegra Allergy, Allegra Hives, Children's Allegra, Mucinex Allergy
- loratadine and pseudoephedrine (Alavert Allergy & Sinus, Claritin-D, Claritin-D 24 hour)
- loratadine, Claritin, Claritin RediTabs, Alavert, Claritin Hives Relief, Children's Claritin
- pseudoephedrine (Oral, Afrinol, Sudafed)
Find the secrets to longer life.