A man with a chronic runny nose uses tissues for relief.

A persistent runny nose can be a sign of sinusitis, allergies and a number of other health issues.

Almost everyone experiences a runny nose during cold and allergy season and can be a huge nuisance because it’s uncomfortable, to begin with, and it’s also inconvenient to have to keep reaching for tissues in order to try and manage it. After a few hours have gone by, and especially toward the end of the day, you can feel pretty fatigued by having had to deal with the effects of a runny nose all day long.

However, are these symptoms serious enough that you should make an appointment with your family doctor to discuss the situation? For the most part, a runny nose should clear itself up within a couple weeks, but if you find that at the end of that time you’re still dealing with tissues and that exhausted feeling, it’s probably a good idea to call your doctor to have it checked out.

Causes of a Runny Nose

What’s actually happening when you have a runny nose is that there is a great deal more drainage than usual emanating from nasal tissues and the blood vessels surrounding them. This excess drainage is usually triggered by inflammation which occurs when you contract a cold or are suffering from an allergy. Those delicate tissues become irritated and secrete far more fluid than they normally would. When that happens, the excess drainage will either go down the back of your throat, or it will come out of your nose, causing you to reach for the tissue box.

When is it Time to Call a Doctor?

Before calling your doctor and scheduling an appointment to check out your condition, there are a few things you can do at home to see if you achieve any relief from your symptoms. The first thing you can try is a nasal saline spray because this should help flush out anything irritating your nose tissue and blood vessels. An antihistamine can help reduce discomfort and other symptoms associated with an allergy. If you don’t notice any serious improvement by taking these measures, it’s probably time to contact your doctor, before things get any worse. It’s definitely time to call your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • for babies, the runny nose is making breathing difficult or causing problems with nursing
  • for children aged less than two months, when a fever is evident, you should call your doctor right away
  • for adults, any kind of head injury followed by a discharge of nasal blood is a warning sign
  • high fever
  • whenever your nose continues to be runny for a period longer than two weeks
  • you notice a yellowish or greenish nasal discharge, especially if it’s accompanied by pain in your sinuses.
Tissues being used to treat the symptoms of a runny nose.

When a chronic runny nose affects your quality of life, it’s time to speak to an ENT physician.

How a Doctor can Help Your Runny Nose

Your family doctor may be qualified to make a thorough examination of your runny nose condition, but if it is felt that a specialist is required, then someone who specializes in ear, nose, and throat will provide the best chance for identifying the cause of your runny nose. Once your situation has been diagnosed, it will probably fall into one of these categories, and will require the indicated treatment:

  • Foreign object lodged in the nose – it’s possible that some tiny object of debris has become lodged in the nasal passage, and is causing serious irritation to the sinuses. This is far more prevalent in children than it is in adults because children are much more likely to insert foreign objects into crevices. When this is determined to be the cause, your doctor will have some special tools which enable him to get a clear look inside the nasal passage, and gently remove whatever object is causing the problem
  • Chronic sinusitis – when your runny nose condition persists for a long period of time and recurs over and over again, you may have chronic sinusitis. In this situation, the most effective treatment is one which has recently been discovered and perfected, known as balloon sinuplasty. This is a minimally invasive procedure which inserts a small balloon on a thin wire inside your nose, to expand and discharge any infection or other unwanted materials. The procedure only takes a half hour or so, and there is very little recovery time necessary, so it has quickly become the de facto standard for treating patients with chronic sinusitis
  • Deviated septum – it’s possible that there may be structural problems in your nose and that they’re preventing the normal drainage pattern you should have. If this is the case, surgery may be necessary to restructure the septum, or to remove nasal polyps which may be present, so that the condition is not allowed to persist
  • Allergies – it’s pretty well-known that allergies go hand-in-hand with a runny nose, because allergens irritate your sinuses, and that causes your nose to run. One of the most common treatments for allergies is immunotherapy, which involves receiving shots to boost your body’s response to the allergy. The objective of allergy shots is to gradually get your body used to the allergen causing the irritation, so that your immune system will tolerate it better, and will not over-react and cause inflammation, which then triggers a runny nose.