Alternative names:
postnasal drip; rhinorrhea; runny nose

The free discharge of thin nasal mucus.

Rhinorrhea is common, but rarely serious. Nasal discharges can also include drainage from inflamed or infected sinuses, in which case it may be thicker or discolored.

Problems from the runny nose are the result of excess mucus. The mucus may cause a postnasal drip and cough that is usually worse at night. A sore throat may also result from excessive mucus drainage.

The mucus drip may plug up the Eustachian tube between the nose and the ear, causing an ear infection and pain. The mucus drip may also plug the sinus passages, causing secondary sinus infection and pain.

Be aware that decongestants make some children overly active, and that antihistamines may cause drowsiness as well as interfere with sleep.

Common causes:

  • the common cold (be aware that nasal secretions contain antibodies, which act against the viruses, and that nasal discharge carries the virus out of the body)
  • allergies, allergic rhinitis, or hay fever (nasal secretions are usually clear and very thin)
  • sinusitis (the nasal secretions may be thick and discolored yellow, brown, or green)
  • head injury
  • bacterial infections (may cause a foul-smelling discharge which is often rusty or green in color)
  • small objects in the nostril (especially in children)
  • nasal sprays or drops containing vasoconstrictors may cause rebound rhinorrhea if used longer than 3 consecutive days


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