Most of us know that winter weather is not good for the nose. Lack of moisture, cold outside air, and forced-air indoor heating dehydrate the mucous membranes within the nostrils. That can leave you with dry nasal passages and sinuses, a stuffy feeling, crusty nose, and yes, even hard snot. What we all know as a dry nose.
Beyond alleviating discomfort, you should address nasal dryness, rather than waiting for things to naturally improve when the weather warms up, for your overall health.
Mucosa is an important substance that the body produces to protect itself from foreign substances such as viruses and bacteria. It’s quite sticky, helping it trap foreign particles that the body can then remove, and it also has antimicrobial properties that fight infection.
Beyond cold, dry weather, other causes of nasal dryness include smoking, vaping, and certain medications. Add that to a growing list of reasons to consider quitting and seek the support you need. Now, you want to know how to treat a dry nose and prevent that Sahara-like feeling in your nostrils in the future.
Why is the nose dry?
A common cause of nasal dryness is blowing your nose too often, either from a cold or allergies. Dry nose is also common among people who live in areas with a dry climate and who smoke tobacco or marijuana. Chronic nasal dryness can also be caused by certain medical conditions, such as Sjogren’s syndrome .
Other causes of nasal dryness include infections, nutritional deficiencies, and chronic atrophic rhinitis , a long-standing nasal inflammation due to an unknown cause. It is also a common symptom of certain medications, such as antihistamines and decongestants used for common colds or allergies.
Aside from being uncomfortable and painful, severe cases are rare. The lining of the nose and the crease underneath are sensitive, and excess dryness and irritation can cause the skin to crack and bleed. However, if you have a dry nose for more than 10 days or are experiencing signs of infection (fever, discharge, blood in the nose that will not stop, and weakness), you should see a doctor immediately.
Remedies to avoid dry nose
Try a saline solution
Saline nasal sprays and gels keep the nasal passages nice and moist. How often you’ll need to use them will be different for everyone, but spray your nostrils as much as is necessary for your comfort, which could be twice a day or every four and six hours.
If you find that you have to use nasal sprays all the time, try a gel, which tends to last longer. A saline gel is preferable to something like olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil, or petroleum jelly, which some people try to apply to the nostril with a cotton swab.
This is not really the way it should be used, and you don’t want to inhale it into your lungs. Also remember to avoid inserting a swab more than a quarter inch into the nostril. Not recommended yet, but keep this in mind in case you try it anyway because you don’t have anything else in the house at the moment.
Drink more often
Drinking water throughout the day is important to keep your whole body (including your nose) well hydrated, even in winter. Keep a bottle of water on hand and fill it frequently.
Not sure how much water to drink? A good rule of thumb is to drink about 3 liters a day.
If you have a humidifier connected to your centralized air indoors, check the humidity levels and increase it if necessary. Otherwise, portable humidifiers can also be helpful in introducing the necessary moisture into a room.
The ideal humidification is between 40 and 45 percent, 35 to 40 percent if the person has a mold allergy. Humidity levels in a heated home in the winter can be well below 20 percent, and often below 10 percent. It is like being in a barren desert. Even with a whole house humidification system, it is wise to use a small humidifier in your bedroom to keep your nasal passages moist while you sleep.
If you are traveling, it is recommended to hang wet towels in the room as a remedy for a dry nose.
Take a look at your overall health
There are certain medical conditions that can make you more prone to the effects of a dry nose, including Sjögren’s syndrome , a chronic autoimmune disease in which your body attacks its own glands that produce tears and saliva. That can cause dry nasal passages.
If you notice other symptoms of Sjögren’s disease, such as nosebleeds, frequent sinusitis, changes in smell or taste, or dry eyes (among others), talk to your doctor.
If you suspect that a new medication may be causing dryness, make an appointment with your doctor, so he or she can review what you are taking and make changes if necessary.
It’s also important to note that you could mistakenly attribute a dry nose to allergies and take antihistamines. These can exacerbate dryness, so talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter allergy medications.
Check you have blood
If you’re also experiencing bleeding along with a dry nose (you can see it in bloody mucus and scabs), talk to your doctor. You may be prescribed an antibiotic nasal ointment, which will moisturize your nasal passages and help heal any bacterial infections that may be occurring.