What Causes a Runny Nose? Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

In the middle of a workout video, you reach for the tissue box, only just a few minutes after you grabbed the last tissue. When will it end? You don’t want to give up your reps, but you can’t focus. A runny nose can disrupt your daily activities, even when you’re pushing hard to achieve your goals.

Learn more about your runny nose symptoms so you can relieve your symptoms before they disrupt your life.

What is a Runny Nose?

No matter how many times you blow your nose – the watery mucus continues to drip down from your nose. All signs point to you having a runny nose.

A runny nose is the result of excess nasal mucus production, leading to watery nasal secretions that discharge from the nostrils or drip down into the throat.

What Causes a Runny Nose?

Runny nose causes include the common cold, flu, and allergies.

A Cold

Having a runny nose and a sore throat are some of the first signs that you may have the common cold.1 According to the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), doctors see millions of cases of the common cold every year, with adults having two to three colds per year.1

Many different respiratory viruses can cause the common cold. However, rhinoviruses are the most common culprit.1 People who are infected with the viruses that cause the common cold can spread it through the air or close personal contact. For example, if you shake hands with someone who has a cold, and then put your hand on your eyes, mouth, or nose, you can get infected with the virus.

The Flu

Just like the common cold, having a runny nose and sore throat are typical flu symptoms. However, the onset may be quicker, and the symptoms more severe. The flu is caused by a group of viruses known as influenza viruses.2 In addition to a runny nose and sore throat, the flu can cause fevers over 100.4 °F, aching muscles, and fatigue.2

The flu is spread through the air when someone who is infected coughs, sneezes, or talks.2 You can get the flu by coming in contact with an infected person’s respiratory droplets and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.


Allergies that cause reactions in the nose can result in runny nose symptoms. Some examples of allergy triggers include pollens, pet dander, mold, dust mites, and cockroaches.3

How to Treat a Runny Nose

A runny nose will usually clear up on its own—but until then, there are ways to relieve your runny nose symptoms from the cold or flu. As with any cold or flu virus, it’s important to stay hydrated and get plenty of rest to help your body heal. Sufficient sleep gives your body the time it needs to repair itself. Research shows that your body makes new immune system cells when you are asleep.4 Proteins known as cytokines that are important for fighting infection and inflammation are produced and released during sleep.5 This means that sleep can support our immune system and prepare your body to fight illness. Plus, resting will give you a break from grabbing tissues!

You may also be tempted to grab the nearest paper towel or toilet paper roll to wipe up any and all runny nose drippings... but resist and find a tissue box. Be kind to your nose and upper lip. Using a rougher paper product that isn’t intended to blow your nose may leave it chapped or red after continued use.

Find soft tissues to wipe up your runny nose, so you don’t add dry or chapped nostrils to your list of symptoms to relieve with cold or flu, too.

Over-the-Counter Medicines for Runny Nose Symptoms


Although Vicks products can’t cure a runny nose, they can help you feel better until it clears up on its own. Cold and flu symptom relief medicines, like NyQuil™ SEVERE, relieve your runny nose and cough symptoms temporarily so you can get the rest you need to recover. It contains the antihistamine doxylamine succinate to dry up your nasal passages-in short, it stops that constant mucus drip that comes from a runny nose. NyQuil™ SEVERE + VapoCOOL™ Cold & Flu brings that same relief plus a rush of Vicks Vapors.

NyQuil Hot Remedy

NyQuil Hot Remedy has the antihistamine diphenhydramine HCI to relieve your runny nose symptoms from a cold or the flu. Dissolve the packet into 8 oz. of hot water, stir, and sip while hot. The soothing Vicks Vapors will comfort you as you sip on the hot drink.

How to Prevent Spreading a Runny Nose

When accompanied by cough or sneezing, a runny nose releases a lot of respiratory droplets—which is exactly what can spread a cold or flu virus to the people around you. Learn what to do to not only avoid getting a runny nose yourself, but also spreading the virus that may have caused it, into your environment. In short, if you can, stay home until your runny nose symptoms go away.

To protect yourself from getting a viral infection triggering a runny nose, the CDC recommends that you1:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Keep your distance from people who are sick.

To protect others around you from catching cold or flu, you should follow these CDC tips1:

  • Stay at home while you are sick and keep children home.
  • Don’t make close contact with other people – avoid hugging, kissing, or shaking hands.
  • Before you cough or sneeze, make sure that you are a safe distance away from people.
  • Cough and sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away, or cough and sneeze into your upper shirt sleeve while completely covering your mouth and nose.
  • Wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, including toys and doorknobs.
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