How to Stop a Runny Nose? (Guide)

Everyone has had to deal with a runny nose and a bit of extra mucus production at some time. Normally, I would just see a runny nose as a minor inconvenience that only lasts a little while, but the past few days have made me determined to get rid of my mucus as quickly as possible.

After babysitting for a friend, I recently ended up stuck with a ridiculously runny nose. Unfortunately, I cannot hide out at home for the next few days because I have a wedding to attend soon. It was therefore essential for me to get well quickly.

I decided to start by learning everything possible about the underlying causes of runny noses. Then I was able to figure out a little bit about actually stopping the runny nose. It was so effective for me that I want to share it with others stuck with this unpleasant condition.

What You Need to Know About Mucus

Before you can start getting rid of your runny nose, it is useful to learn a little bit about mucus first. I know it might seem a little gross at first, but it is actually a very important physical process.

What Is Mucus Made Of?

Mucus is mostly produced from the aptly named mucous membranes. These are thin membranes that line airways in the throat, nose, and lungs. It can also be secreted by certain glands. Altogether, the respiratory system can produce up to two liters of mucus each day.

The main ingredient in mucus is just water. However, it also contains antiseptic enzymes, white blood cells, and certain types of proteins called mucins. Mucins have a cell structure that forms slippery, gel like substances. They are what give a runny nose its characteristic texture.

Mucus is generally clear and thin. However, when you are sick, you might notice that the color changes to yellow or green. The green color comes from iron-based enzymes that are a byproduct of white blood cells fighting illness.Trapped bacteria in mucus can make it look yellow.

Does Mucus Have a Function in the Respiratory System?

Even when your nose is not runny or dripping, your body is still producing mucus. Mucus is constantly made because it has a very important role in maintaining respiratory health. This fluid helps to keep the lungs free of tiny, irritating particles.

The sticky texture of mucus that lines the nose and throat catches dust, pollens, virus particles, bacteria, and other allergens that a person inhales. When they are stuck in the mucus, they cannot be inhaled into the lungs where they could cause many issues.

The mucus is swept along the upper airway by tiny hairs called cilia that move the mucus towards the stomach. Stomach acids can safely digest irritants that would cause problems in the lungs. More mucous is then produced after the old mucus is moved along by the cilia.

Mucus is also beneficial because it keeps the throat and nose passageways moist. These sensitive tissues tend to feel rough and painful when they dry out. Without mucus, inflamed membranes in the airways are more likely to become infected.

Can Mucus Cause Health Problems?

Though mucus production is normally a good thing, it can become problematic. Most health issues with mucus occur from excessive mucosal productions. When a person gets sick, their immune system goes into overdrive and tries to flush out the airways with extra mucus.

As I learned this week, extra mucus makes it extremely hard to breathe. A drippy nose is just inconvenient, but when it thickens up in the airways, it can become difficult to breathe, especially if you are laying down. You may end up dealing with unpleasant and painful coughing.

In some cases, mucus can even make illnesses worse because it generates a moist environment where bacteria can replicate. If mucous remains in the sinuses or tonsils instead of being moved out of the body, it can cause infections like sinusitis.

What Types of Health Problems Cause Extra Mucus?

The most common reason the body will produce excessive mucus is if a person has an upper respiratory infection. The immune system responds to cold and flu germs by trying to flush them out with extra mucus. Therefore, a runny nose is a common symptom of a cold or flu.

Excessive amounts of thick mucus can also be an early symptom of cystic fibrosis. This genetic disorder causes gene mutations that make the body produce too much mucus. Generally, cystic fibrosis causes mucus in the lungs instead of the nose.

Any illness that affects and inflames the airways can make mucus even worse. These include nasal polyps, sinusitis, asthma, allergies, respiratory syncytial virus, and swine flu. Illnesses that cause a runny nose can range from mild illness to severe disease.

Sometimes the health issue can be due to injury, not illness. People with a deviated septum or other nose injury can experience a constantly runny nose because the displacement prevents cilia from working correctly to remove mucus from the nose.

Can Anything Else Cause Extra Mucus?

Health conditions are the most common cause of a runny nose, but they are not the only reason. During winter, cilia can temporarily quit moving due to temperature. If the cilia cease to function, mucus drips into the nose instead of being pushed down the airways to the stomach.

Mucus can also be caused by any irritation, even if the irritation is not actually a threat to a person's health. Spicy foods or warm beverages can occasionally irritate mucous membranes enough to cause runny noses. Smoking tobacco can also cause mucus production to increase.

How to Stop a Runny Nose

The first step when stopping a runny nose will be to figure out the cause. You most likely are being exposed to some allergen or irritant if your nose is constantly runny. If you are experiencing other symptoms, the runniness is most likely due to an illness.

Typically a runny nose is caused by a cold or flu. It starts suddenly and is accompanied by feelings of illness, headaches, and congestion. If you have a cold or a flu, you will just have to wait to get better because there is no simple cure for them.

If the cold does not get better after a week or two, you may have a more serious issue that will require medicine for treatment. Regardless of the cause, you may be able to stop your nose from running while ill. While waiting for the illness to go away, try out one of these methods.

Try a Light Massage

When you are sick, you tend to have pressure build up around your nose and sinuses. A few simple steps can help to reduce the discomfort that your runny nose can cause. All of these massage steps help to stimulate acupressure points that reduce stuffiness and congestion.

  • Massage the lower part of your earlobes gently for ten seconds on each side.
  • Put two fingers on either side of your nose, right below the eyebrows. Gently apply pressure for 15 seconds.
  • Press one nostril closed for five seconds, then press the other closed for five seconds. Repeat 10 times.
  • Put one finger on either side of the nose between the cheekbones. Apply mild pressure for two minutes.

Apply Warm Compresses to the Nose

Gentle heat is one of the most effective ways to soothe congestion and stop your nose from running. It helps to activate the cilia and get them to push excess mucus out of the way instead of dripping it down your nose. Just be careful to avoid burning yourself.

  • Heat water until it is hot without being boiling.
  • Soak a small hand towel or washcloth in the water.
  • Apply it over your nose and let the compress rest on the affected area for a few minutes.
  • Gently blow your nose with a very soft tissue to clear out the excessive fluid.

Inhale Some Steam

The warm, damp temperature of steam helps to stimulate mucus flow. This makes thick mucus flow out rapidly, and briefly stops the runny nose. It may also help to heal your cold quicker by boosting your immune system's response.

  • Heat a quart of water until it boils and then pour it into a bowl.
  • Add a few drops of peppermint, eucalyptus, ginger, or lavender essential oil if desired.This optional step can increase effectiveness.
  • Place your head roughly 10 inches away from the water surface.
  • Cover your head and shoulders with a towel to block the steam in the towel with you.
  • Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth to circulate the steam through your airways.
  • Continue for one to two minutes.

Irrigate your Nose

Nasal irrigation stops a runny nose by flushing out all of the mucus. Though it only stops the running until your body produces more mucus, it can provide some welcome relief. Some believe that it can also help to flush out germs causing the runny nose.

  • Obtain a bulb syringe or a neti pot depending on your personal preferences. Either is effective.
  • Mix two cups of warm, sterile distilled water with ½ teaspoon of salt and a tiny pinch of baking soda.
  • Fill your irrigation device and lean over the sink with your head tilted to the side. Do not tilt your head backwards.
  • Put the neti pot spout or syringe tip into the top nostril and pour water into your nose while breathing through your mouth.
  • Blow your nose gently to clear it, tip your head to the other side so that the other nostril is on top, and repeat the process.

Treat the Underlying Issue

It is helpful to use methods that treat a runny nose, but keep in mind that it is just a symptom of another issue. To get permanent relief, you will need to actually treat the health condition itself. Otherwise, you may be stuck with a runny nose for days.

Avoid any irritants that seem to be causing your nose to run, such as spicy foods or dust. If an allergen that cannot be avoided is causing the issue, an over the counter antihistamine will help to reduce runniness. An inhaler may be needed if you have asthma.

If you are sick with any sort of virus, you will need plenty of rest. Drink a lot of fluids to avoid dehydration, and take zinc and magnesium to boost your immune system. If the runny nose is caused by a bacterial infection, you may need to see your doctor about getting antibiotics.

Conclusion

These methods are generally quite effective. They help to clear out excess mucus and deal with the underlying cause of a runny nose. If you are still dealing with a runny nose after several days, you may want to see a doctor and get it checked out.

I tried out a few of the above methods and managed to stop my nose from running right before my big event. Hopefully they will help you out too! If you have any other suggestions for stopping runny noses or want to ask any questions, please feel free to comment below.

Patricia K.

She is our health expert (medical student), with a little bit of over-meticulousness and precision. She has an unquenchable desire to help others.