Snotty noses


IMPORTANT The information provided is of a general nature and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you think you may suffer from an allergic or other disease that requires attention, you should discuss it with your family doctor. The content of the information articles and all illustrations on this website remains the intellectual property of Dr Raymond Mullins and cannot be reproduced without written permission.

There are only a few common causes of snotty noses


(eg. broken nose, big adenoids, nasal polyps).

That will cause blockage only; no sneeze, no itch, no runny nose


Infections are common; adults get around 6/year, usually mild and short-lived. Young children can get 6-8/year, often double that if attending child-care or preschool. If prolonged, people often lose their sense of small and taste.

Allergy to inhaled triggers like pollen or dust mite

Population surveys show “hay fever” to affect around 1/5 adults, 1/10 teenagers and around 1/20 children aged 5 years. In infants, infection is the major cause, not allergy.

Dry nose

A dry nose can feel blocked even if the anatomy is fine. If so, symptoms are often better after a shower or if visiting the coast from a  dry inland area.

Rhinitis medicamentosa

Also know as rebound rhinitis, rhinitis medicamentosa is caused by regular use of decongestant/unblocking nasal sprays. There are many brands (eg. Sinex, Drixine, Vicks) which are commonly used to treat the blocked noses resulting from infection. These sprays usually unblock the nose within 5 minutes. But if a person keeps using these sprays, the blocked nose worsens and stays that way as long as the sprays are used.

Other causes

Nasal polyps - affect ~ 1/200 people

Pregnancy - the hormones of pregnancy can sometimes trigger a blocked nose

Medicines - sometimes blood pressure tablets or other medicines can cause a blocked nose.

Last reviewed 5 June 2020