4 Top Causes of Chronic Sniffles

Find out what causes a persistent runny or stuffy nose, and how you can treat it.

Sanaz Majd, MD,
December 12, 2013
Episode #079

Page 2 of 2

Culprit #2: Nasal Irritants

Some people experience nasal symptoms from certain irritants that don’t necessarily cause the same immune response as an allergy.  These irritants are often changes in the weather (especially the dry, cold weather of the winter months), cigarette smoke, alcohol ingestion, air pollution, and the smell of chemicals or perfumes. These irritants cause the tiny blood vessels in the nose to open up and leak fluid.  This phenomenon is referred to as “vasomotor rhinitis,” and the treatment is a different prescription nasal spray that helps to close off these opened blood vessels.  Nasal saline irrigation can also help to cleanse these pesky irritants out of the nose.  If the culprit is job related, wear a mask. If your nose hates your or your partner’s perfume, stop using it.

Culprit #3: Medications

So you have a runny or stuffy nose that won’t let up – what’s the logical next step, you ask?  Let’s run to the drug store and try some of these over-the-counter nasal sprays, right?  Wrong!  Some of these OTC sprays can actually do the opposite in the long run!  Once the nasal spray wears off, your nose will run hard to place first place in that marathon. Your symptoms not only may return, but they return even worse.  Doctor’s call this a “rebound” phenomenon, in which spraying the nose causes you to want to spray even more and turns this into a nasty cycle of overuse and the sniffles.  Your nose actually becomes dependent on these sprays and wants more and more of it. Nasal saline products are fine, but I would avoid any OTC decongestant nasal sprays. 

There are other medications that can cause the snot to pour out or plug up.  These include some blood pressure medications, antipsychotics, antidepressants, hormonal contraceptives, prostate enlargement pills, and medicines used to treat erectile dysfunction.

Culprit #4: Pregnancy

Some women may experience stuffed nasal passages during their pregnancies.  It’s a normal phenomenon that occurs due to the body’s hormone changes.  Nasal saline and some over-the-counter antihistamines can help, but make sure to run any products by your obstetrician before you use them, even if they are over-the-counter.  Thankfully, pregnancy-related sniffles resolve within two weeks of delivery (when you’re probably too tired to even notice them).

And there you have it, 4 top causes of the chronic sniffles.  Don’t let your nose outrun you – visit your doctor for some tricks and tips to stop it in its tracks!

Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only.  This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider.  Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

Tissue Box image courtesy of Shutterstock


Related Tips