Turns out, there are a lot of culprits for the phenomenon, and not everyone's nose is running for the same reason.
"It’s very individualized," says
Sherry Ross, MD, OB/GYN and Women's Health Expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. According to Dr. Ross, one person may be getting over a week-long virus, while another might be struggling with a mild, recurring cold. And another may just have allergies. (Yes, you can still get those in winter.)
Clearly, the answer to your runny nose problems isn't one-size-fits-all. Ahead, we've rounded up nine reasons your nose won't stop running in winter, and what to do about each one.
You can't get rid of your cold.
Colds — and the runny noses that come with them — can often drag on, simply because people aren't listening to their bodies.
"People have a harder time getting better and need to follow the rules of getting better," Dr. Ross says. "If you’re not feeling well or you have a temperature of over 100.4, you owe it to yourself and the people you’re around to stay at home, rest, and hydrate as much as you can."
For the first 24 to 48 hours you feel sick, Dr. Ross says you need to sleep and fuel your body with nutrients to fight your sickness. She recommends eating plenty of nutritious
, since it helps hydrate you, open your nasal passages, and clear your sinuses.
"If you abide by these rules, you get better faster," Dr. Ross says.
Your cold has evolved into another illness.
If your cold progresses into sinusitis, bronchitis, or a more serious respiratory illness (like pneumonia), that can also prolong your runny nose, says
MD, medical editor for WebMD.
Again, it's important to listen to your body and get the rest you need, especially if you have achy muscles. Taking care of yourself can help you avoid worsening symptoms.
Most of us already know how important it is to wash our hands frequently, and to avoid touching our faces too much (especially our eyes and mouths). But if you're leading a busy, chaotic life, it's easy to forget to sanitize each time you reach for a quick snack or apply lip balm. However, in the case of the flu or other viruses, which are both common reasons for runny noses, Dr. Ross says that these germs are very contagious and easily spread. Regular hand-washing can reduce the amount of time you spend with a runny nose. You're not washing your hands enough. "Washing your hands a lot can be your number one defense," Dr. Ross says. At minimum, she recommends that people always wash up before they eat. The cold weather itself can trigger a leaky nose. The not-so-great news? "Just being in the cold can trigger a runny nose," Dr. Cassoobhoy says. When you're outside in the cold, the chilly air you're inhaling is warmed in your nasal passages, which makes your nose run. The best way to prevent this from happening, Dr. Cassoobhoy says, is to keep your nose warm with a scarf or another covering. You have allergies. People may associate allergies with pollen and plants, but winter is peak time for indoor allergens. "In winter, people tend to be inside more, so if they’re sensitive to dust mites, cockroaches, pets, mold, fungus or other indoor allergies, [symptoms] will increase in the winter," Dr. Cassoobhoy says. If you haven't been diagnosed with allergies and you feel that your runny nose worsens as you spend more time indoors, ask your doctor if an allergy test is right for you. Other symptoms may include itchy eyes and tearing. If it turns out that indoor allergens are the culprit, then you and your doctor can figure out the best course of treatment to alleviate symptoms. You're overdoing it with the cold medicine. "Often, with a runny nose, people will think about taking a decongestant, but I would caution people," Dr. Cassoobhoy says. Nasal decongestants, especially the sprays, often come with directions that say you have to limit use to three days, since overuse can lead to even worse symptoms. "You can get a condition called rebound congestion," Dr. Cassoobhoy says. "When the medication runs out, the stuffiness comes back even worse." Of course, it's important to consult your doctor before taking any type of decongestant. Your nose is too dry. The dryness of winter, coupled with the heating systems in many homes, leads to dry nasal passages and a drippy nose. Plus, if you or someone you know smokes indoors (or you just like sitting near warm, cozy fireplaces), being around a concentration of smoke can also keep your nose feeling parched, even after you're away from the smoke source. Dr. Cassoobhoy recommends using a humidifier to make sure the air you're breathing is moist.