cold weather and runny nose

Sometimes you may wish you could turn off a runny nose like a faucet. But this drip actually serves several important purposes in protecting your health. Moisture protects your mucous membranes, traps bacteria, and prevents foreign objects from entering your nasal passages and body.

Although your body produces 1 to 2 quarts of mucus per day, certain conditions can increase this amount. These include allergens such as pollen or mold in the air, common cold viruses (rhinoviruses), irritation and exposure to cold weather.

This article discusses why you get a runny nose in cold weather and how to prevent it.

What to do when you have a cold

vasomotor rhinitis

If you have a runny nose in cold weather and have no other symptoms of allergies or illness, it may be vasomotor rhinitis. This is a non-allergic rhinitis caused by changes in temperature, humidity, and exposure to strong odors and fragrances.

If you have vasomotor rhinitis, your body produces clear mucus. It may run off the front of the nose, run down the back of the throat, or cause nasal congestion.

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Why temperature matters

Your body has built-in ways to protect itself when it needs it.

When exposed to cold temperatures, your body produces extra mucus to warm and moisturise the air passing through your nasal passages. This protects the mucous membranes in the nose from damage from dry, cold also protects Bronchioles (the delicate air sacs) are damaged in your lungs.

Also, cold-induced runny nose is a condensation-like phenomenon. While the air you breathe in may be cold, your body temperature warms the air. When you exhale, you release warm, moist air into the environment (which is cold).

When these two temperatures meet, water droplets are created. The water drips down your nose along with the mucus they mix.


When it’s cold outside, your body produces extra mucus to warm and moisturise your nasal passages and protect your lungs.

How to Prevent Cold Weather Runny Nose

The only way to prevent a runny nose from being cold is to avoid breathing in cold air. One way is to cover your nose and mouth with a wrap or scarf when outdoors. This keeps the air warm and moist before you inhale it.

Vasomotor rhinitis does not usually get better with antihistamines, which are medicines for allergies. You may get better with nasal steroids or a nasal antihistamine spray. When your nose “flows like a faucet,” the best medicine is Atrovent (ipratropium bromide) nasal spray.

Atrovent works by drying out the mucus-producing cells in the nose. It can be used as needed as the spray will start working within an hour. Atrovent nasal spray is only available by prescription. Check with your healthcare provider to see if this medication is right for you.

Finally, use a humidifier indoors. Even if the temperature in your home is moderate, the air is usually drier during the colder weather months. Humidification can help keep your mucous membranes optimally moist.


In cold weather, you can help prevent a runny nose by covering your nose and mouth with a scarf. This helps to warm and moisten the air before you inhale. Your doctor may also prescribe a nasal spray like Atrovent to help reduce excess mucus.


A runny nose is common when it’s cold outside. That’s because your body is making extra mucus to hydrate and protect your mucous membranes in the cold, dry air.

To help relieve your symptoms, use a scarf to keep your nose and mouth warm when you go out. Ask your doctor about nasal sprays that help reduce nasal mucus. Or consider using a humidifier indoors to keep mucous membranes moist in cold weather.