Is Runny Nose a bad thing?

In today’s Pulse, we will talk about a common condition with the nose called the runny nose or Rhinorrhea.

The nose isn’t running, but fluid is running out of the nose. We observe this phenomenon when we get flu, stay in cold climates, eat something spicy, or some people also get it when exposed to dust, pollen, or smoke.

What causes it, you ask? Is it bad or a warning signal? How should we stop it? Or should we even prevent it in the first place?

We will find the answer to these questions one by one.

In medical terms, a runny nose is excess mucus secretion, also known as Rhinorrhea.

In the nose, it is responsible for controlling the temperature of the air we breathe, removing dust and germs from it, making it moist, etc.

Regulating Temperature
We breathe in nearly 15 kg of air every day, that’s equivalent to the amount of LPG in a household gas cylinder.

This air can be very cold(up to -10 degrees) and very hot (up to 100 degrees). The mucus membrane releases mucus to adjust the temperature of the air we breathe. If the air is at normal temperature, we do not notice a discharge of mucus, but if it is very cold or very hot, the mucus membrane discharges a lot of mucus to cool down the air, often overflowing to cause a runny nose. This is kind of how desert cooler cools the air in the summer.

Making Air Moist
In cold climates, the air can be very dry. Dry air sucks out moisture from tissues and causes them to break and bleed. This can be fatal for the sensitive skin inside our nose and throat. Often due to less mucus production, the dry air breaks the tissues inside the nose resulting in bleeding from the nose known as epistaxis.

So when dry air enters, the mucus adds moisture to it. If the air becomes very dry and cold, the mucus membrane reacts with an increased mucus discharge to make the air moist. This causes a runny nose.

Killing Germs and Trapping Dust
We breathe air from the atmosphere with dust and lots of germs. The mucus and the hair in the nose trap the dust and prevent it from entering the lungs. Most people see a runny nose in a highly dusty area. Some people with overly sensitive tissue inside the nose can also have a runny nose with very little dust or smoke; this condition is often called allergy. One should consider seeing a doctor in such a case.

We inhale many bacteria and viruses every day, despite that we don’t get ill that often thanks to the mucus in our nose. The mucus is, in fact, the very first line of defense for the body. Mucus contains germ-killing antibodies and immune cells that trap and kill most viruses and bacteria. But when the germ attack is powerful, the nose responds with an increased mucus discharge to combat the germs, causing a runny nose. This happens when we get a cold, flu, or covid.

Then why do we have a runny nose when we eat spicy food?
Spicy foods have capsaicin and Allyl isothiocyanate chemicals; these make the food spicy. The chemicals travel to our nose through the pharynx when we eat spicy food. They cause inflammation in the tissues, and the nose mistakes them for a foreign invader and releases a lot of mucus to wash them off.

Rare case
There might be a leak of CSF fluid in some rare cases through the nose. The CSF fluid is a fluid layering that separates the brain and the skull.

How to detect this? We can not detect it on our own, and a doctor has to do due diligence to find it out. But this happens typically after a head or spinal cord injury.

So if you have no history of previous dust or smoke allergy and have a constant runny nose (clear water) without flu, then consider getting tested for a CSF fluid leak.

A runny nose is a way for the nose to keep you healthy. It’s a warning sign for flu or other foreign invasions.

Please see a doctor if a runny nose is accompanied by other symptoms.

Hope this helped; at least you won’t see mucus as a disgusting thing anymore.
That’s it for today!
Until next time….
Have a healthy day!




Designing personalised healthcare experiences

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