What Is Rhinorrhea?

Rhinorrhea is classified as a discharge of nasal fluids. It is commonly referred to as a runny nose, although it is technically a thin, clear nasal discharge. It refers to an excessive amount of drainage that by nasal tissues and blood vessels in the nose. Rhinorrhea can drain out of the nose and/or down the back of the throat. Congestion of the nasal passages may or may not accompany rhinorrhea.

What Causes Rhinorrhea?

There are several causes associated with rhinorrhea. Anything that irritates or inflames nasal tissues, such as infections like the flu and common cold, can trigger rhinorrhea. Allergies can also cause an onset of rhinorrhea. Other causes of rhinorrhea can include:

  • Acute sinusitis
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Overuse of decongestion spray
  • Drug addiction and substance abuse
  • Dry air
  • Spicy foods
  • Deviated septum
  • Certain medications
  • Nasal polyps
  • Asthma
  • Hormone changes
  • Respiratory disease

There are cases of severe rhinorrhea that are typically caused by more serious problems. These can include: whooping cough, tumours in the nasal cavity, cluster headaches, and chicken pox. Serious genetic disorders can also cause rhinorrhea.

What Are the Symptoms of Rhinorrhea?

While rhinorrhea is a symptom itself, there are several other symptoms that may occur because of it. These include:

  • Sneezing
  • Sinus congestion
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose
  • Headache
  • Facial pain
  • Ear pain


Rhinorrhea will typically go away on its own. It can be treated with over-the-counter antihistamines or topical decongestants. Nasal sprays can be helpful, but overuse of them can cause symptoms to become worse.

Rhinorrhea can easily be treated at home. Covering the head with a towel and inhaling the steam out of a boiling pot of water with a few added drops of eucalyptus oil can quickly clear up nasal discharge. A neti pot with a saline solution of salt and purified water is beneficial for flushing the nasal cavities and can also provide relief.

Other steps to relieve rhinorrhea at home include:

  • Avoiding any known allergens
  • Gently blowing the nose
  • Sniffing and swallowing excess mucus
  • Using a small rubber suction bulb for infants or small children

There are some cases where rhinorrhea is a sign of a more serious problem. It is recommended to seek medical attention when the following occurs:

  • Symptoms last longer than 10 days
  • Rhinorrhea is accompanied by a high fever
  • Nasal discharge is yellow or green and accompanied by fever
  • Blood in nasal discharge
  • Experiencing persistent rhinorrhea after a head injury

Rhinorrhea may be serious when occurring in infants. If a child is younger than 2 months old and is running a fever, it is recommended to seek medical attention. Difficulty breathing and congestion while nursing can also be an indication of a more serious problem in infants.

External Links

Runny nose, Mayo Clinic

Rhinorrhea – Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment, Prime Health Channel

Rhinorrhea Overview, FreeMD

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