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Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.

Rhinorrhea definition

A runny or dripping nose. When a person has rhinorrhea it is normally one of the major symptoms of hay fever and the common cold. It is derived from two Greek words which are rhinos (of the nose) and rrhea (flow or discharge).

Rhinorrhea Symptoms

When a person has rhinorrhea it can be characterized by many different symptoms which can include:

  • A discharge of an unusually large amount of nasal fluid such as sinus or mucus
  • The discharge may be thick or colored

With each type of rhinorrhea there are certain symptoms associated with it.

  • Gustatory rhinorrhea – an increased production of saliva, nasal mucus, and gastric acids
  • Rhinorrhea in infants – along with a runny nose the infant may also have sneezing, a cough, watery eyes, mild fever, and yellow or green nasal discharge if it caused by the common cold. If it is because of an allergy in addition to the runny nose the infant may have redness of the eyes, eyes that itch, sneezing, and a watery charge from their eyes. If the cause is influenza the symptoms can include in addition to the runny nose a fever with chills, dry cough, loss of appetite, sore throat, fussiness or being cranky, vomiting and diarrhea

Rhinorrhea Causes

There are many different types of rhinorrhea and each has their own cause for having it.

Gustatory rhinorrhea

This type happens when you are eating. When you eat your autonomic nervous system becomes stimulated leading to a compound called acetylcholine being released. Many people will experience this type of rhinorrhea when they eat spicy foods. One reason that a person might suffer from this type of rhinorrhea is because of scar tissue from surgery or having a broken nose. It can also be caused by the excessive amount of sinus or mucus produced. Sometimes this problem can be aggravated by the smell or taste of food, being exposed to odors like scented candles, paint fumes, diesel exhaust, perfumes, smoke, etc. It can also occur because of hormonal changes, especially during your menses cycles, emotional stress, some common medications, changes in air temperature, and humidity.

Rhinorrhea in infants

On average an infant has a cold a month with the frequency increasing during the winter months. It can also be caused by second hand smoke, allergies, influenza,

Rhinorrhea Treatment

The treatment for rhinorrhea depends on what type of rhinorrhea you are experiencing.

Gustatory rhinorrhea

If you are suffering from this type of rhinorrhea you should have your nosed checked by your physician to see if is because of an allergy or because of scar tissue. Before you start to eat your physician may prescribe antihistamines or a nasal spray for you to use. You should use one or the other but never both at the same time. There is also the possibility that taking an antihistamine could cause drowsiness. They should also not be continued for a long period of time. If you are going to be around a lot of people when eating you should make sure that you use them before you go out. Try to avoid eating hot spicy food, especially Thai or Mexican and stay away from caffeinated beverages.

Rhinorrhea in infants

If it is the common cold, which is considered a viral infection, it will not respond to taking antibiotics so usually it is left to run its own course and gradually it will resolve itself on its own. If the cause is allergies the physician may prescribe an allergy medicine or have them use a nebulizer or inhaler. If second hand smoke is the cause you should make sure that you keep the infant out of the area where there is smoking. One thing that you should not do in treating rhinorrhea in infants is to give them over-the-counter cough and cold medications as they have been found to cause possible side effects and are not usually too effective in treating any of the causes of rhinorrhea in infants.

There are also home remedies that you can use for rhinorrhea in infants, children, and adults.

  • For children with rhinorrhea most children cannot blow their noses until they are four years old. In order to help with rhinorrhea and the stuffiness you can use a saline nasal spray. The saline water will help to loosen up the mucus in their nasal cavity.
  • Make sure that you are well hydrated but stay away from caffeinated beverages because they have the opposite effect. They have a dehydrating effect on your mucus membranes. When you have rhinorrhea it is best to stick with water.
  • When sleeping elevate the head of the bed to ensure the proper drainage of mucus from the nose. You can raise the head of the bed by putting towels under the mattress.
  • You can also use a cool-mist humidifier or vaporizer to help moisten the air in the room because dry air can irritate your nose.
  • You can add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the water to help make it more effective to help clear out mucus buildup.
  • Take a hot shower and inhale the steam from the hot water.
  • Drink herbal tea by adding a teaspoon each of fresh mint, cayenne pepper, elderberry, and yarrow root. Boil the mixture and then let it steep for at least thirty minutes before straining it. After it cools you should drink it at least two times a day.
  • Chew a small piece of ginger and swallow the juice to increase blood circulation, help in draining your nose, and warming your body.
  • Take four hundred milligram of Indian Echinacea three times each day and one of the most effective treatments you can use.

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