How to Clear a Runny Nose Fast: Tips to Stop Your Sniffles

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Wondering how to clear a runny nose fast? Unfortunately, a runny nose often has to, well, run its course. But you can take steps to ease this pesky symptom and feel better more quickly.

Lots of things can cause a runny nose — including allergies and the common cold. A runny nose can also be a sign of a more serious health condition, like COVID-19. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, get tested or talk with your doctor. 

Read on to find tips for a runny nose quick fix.

Why Does Your Nose Run, Anyway?

It may seem like a runny nose has no purpose. But actually, mucus (you know, the stuff coming out of your nose) has an important job. It keeps your airways moist and helps stop harmful bacteria from getting into your lungs.

The inside of your nose is lined by a special moist tissue with glands that make mucus. When viruses, bacteria or any kind of harmful particles enter your nose, they irritate this lining. And in response, your nose starts to make a lot of clear mucus. The mucus traps the potentially harmful particles and helps flush them out of your nose and sinuses. 

Cold air can slow things down, so that the mucus stays in your nose and then drips or dribbles out. Your body also makes more mucus than it really needs and wants to get rid of it — and that’s when you get a runny nose.

Figure Out What’s Causing Your Runny Nose

Anything that irritates the inside of your nose can cause a runny nose, including:

  • Cold or dry air
  • Allergies
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Eating hot or spicy food
  • Using too much decongestant nasal spray
  • Certain medicines, including some for blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, and depression

A runny nose is also a very common symptom of many health conditions, including:

Try These Tips to Clear a Runny Nose Fast

A runny nose will probably stop on its own and usually doesn’t need any treatment. In most cases, the best step is to get plenty of rest to help your body recover. 

But if you’re looking to clear a runny nose fast, here are a few tips and tricks to help clear out the mucus — and hopefully relieve some of your discomfort. Follow these steps:

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
  • Have a hot shower.
  • Inhale steam or apply a warm, moist washcloth to your face several times a day.
  • Use a gentle saline nasal spray three to four times a day, for no more than three days in a row.
  • Try an over-the-counter decongestant.
  • Use a vaporizer or humidifier.

You may find a runny nose even more annoying when you’re trying to sleep. It’s often worse when you’re lying down — so try putting an extra pillow under your head. If you use a humidifier, try placing it near your bed while you sleep.

If you think your runny nose is from allergies, try to avoid your triggers (like pollen or dust). You can also try taking over-the-counter allergy medicines to help relieve your symptoms.

If you think you may have COVID-19, get tested and stay home and away from other people. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms and what to do next.

When to See a Doctor

Although usually harmless, a runny nose can sometimes be a sign of something serious. Tell your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Runny nose that lasts for more than 10 days in a row and isn’t getting better
  • High fever
  • Blood in your mucus
  • Fluid coming out of your nose after a head injury
  • Runny nose with mucus that has a bad smell, comes from only one side, or is any color other than white or yellow
  • Runny nose with yellow or green mucus and sinus pain or fever
  • Stuffy nose with blurry vision or swelling of your forehead, eyes, cheeks or sides of the nose