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Massachusetts Eye and Ear
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Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery

Nasal Drainage

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Nasal drainage, or more commonly known as a runny nose, happens to everyone. It results from excess nasal mucus production and often leads to discharge from the nostrils that can range from a clear fluid to thick mucus. Sometimes, it can also run down the back of your throat and cause irritation.

There are many causes to a runny nose—from irritants to inflammation. Knowing the cause can help you determine whether or not you should see a doctor, and what type of treatment is needed.

Most Common Causes:

  • Allergies
  • The common cold or the flu
  • Sinus infections
  • Nonallergic rhinitis/vasomotor rhinitis: Clear drainage from both nostrils due to overactive nasal glands

Less Common, but Other Possible Causes:

  • Asthma
  • Certain inflammatory disorders
  • Deviated septum
  • Dry air
  • Nasal polyps
  • Overuse of nasal sprays
  • Spinal fluid leak
  • Tobacco smoke

3Common Symptoms

  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Post nasal drip

Diagnosis and Treatment

For most patients, a runny nose will clear up on its own. However, it can be a sign of a more serious problem, so we advise you call your primary care doctor if:

  • Your symptoms have lasted longer than 10 days

  • Your nasal discharge is yellow and/or green, and is accompanied by sinus pain or a fever

  • You have a high fever

  • There is blood in your nasal discharge or a persistent clear discharge after a head injury

Meet Our Team

Our Sinus Center is comprised of surgeons and supportive staff specially trained to care for your sinuses and related nasal disorders.

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